The Indianapolis Colts have a big offseason ahead of them.
For the second year in a row, the Colts will be blessed with a large amount of cap space, but also have a litany of spots to fill as 23 players become free agents in 2014. With only four draft picks available in the 2014 draft, free agency will play a huge role in the eventual make-up of the 2014 Indianapolis Colts.
We started looking at how the Colts' cap was spread out last week, and today, we take an in-depth look at each position and how much money the Colts can and will spend there as they go into the 2014 free agency period.
So look no further, Colts fans, your 2014 free agency spending guide is here!
All contract information comes via Spotrac.
Current 2014 Roster Cap Hit (45 players) : $88,158,569
Projected 2014 Roster Cap Hit (35 players) : $78,652,962
Estimated 2014 Drafted Rookies Cap Hit (4 players): $2,100,000
Practice Squad: $816,000
Dead Money: $769,731
Cap Adjustment (2013 left over space): $1,162,957
Current 2014 Salary Cap: $126,300,000 (Potentially $127.5 million)
Current 2014 Cap Space: $35,618,657
Projected 2014 Cap Space: $44,057,596
Currently, the Colts have 45 players on contract for 2014, but of those players, only about 35 are likely to make the final roster (hence the "projected" sections, more details on the following slides). To get to the 53-man roster, the Colts would need to sign 18 players. They should have four draft picks in the 2014 draft, so will need to sign at least 14 players to get that top 53.
Now, the Colts will acquire more than 53 total players, as they'll go into training camp with 90 players. But only the 53 players on the final roster, the injured reserve players and dead money will count against the 2014 cap.
The Colts will likely need to keep some of their cap space in reserve in order to sign players throughout the season to account for injuries. For this exercise, we'll assume that number to be a little over $4 million, leaving us with a nice, round projected $40 million to sign 14 free agents.
Quarterback: Andrew Luck ($6.03 million), Matt Hasselbeck (3.75 million)
The Colts could, and should, cut Matt Hasselbeck and save themselves $2.25 million, but it won't happen.
Tight End: Coby Fleener ($1.46 million), Dwayne Allen ($836k), Weslye Saunders ($645k), Jack Doyle ($495k)
The Colts already invested with Fleener and Allen, and Doyle is the type of tight end the Colts want as depth: a good blocker with decent hands. Personally, I'd project Saunders to be gone.
Fullback: Stanley Havili ($570k)
No need for a fullback on the roster with Allen being able to fill that role in a pinch, but it is what it is. Regardless, no additional spending is needed.
Tackle: Gosder Cherilus ($3.90 million), Anthony Castonzo ($2.55 million), Justin Anderson ($570k), Xavier Nixon ($495k)
In my projections, Anderson is gone, as he's lived on the injured reserve list for the last two years, and Nixon played well in limited stints this year. But the Colts don't need more than one backup tackle if they have a swing guy at reserve guard.
Outside Linebacker: Robert Mathis ($8.75 million), Erik Walden ($4.25 million), Bjoern Werner ($1.79 million), Daniel Adongo ($495k)
Realistically, the Colts need to add a pass rusher, but will likely look to groom Werner and Adongo in those roles for 2014. The Colts may re-sign Cam Johnson, who is an exclusive-rights free agent in 2014, but I wouldn't expect anything more than that.
Trent Richardson ($2.25 million), Tashard Choice ($855k), Vick Ballard ($606k), Dan Herron and Chris Rainey (570k)
Of these five backs, Ballard and Richardson are the only ones that will definitely be on the roster in 2014, meaning the Colts still likely need to acquire two backs. One needs to be a player that can join Ballard and Richardson as a rotational back, while the other will likely be a special teams player and/or returner.
The former likely would be a free agent signing, with recent Colts such as Donald Brown and Ahmad Bradshaw being strong possibilities. The latter would likely be an undrafted free agent, late round pick or veteran minimum player.
Overall expected FA spending: $2-3 million
Potential targets: Donald Brown, Ahmad Bradshaw, Rashad Jennings, James Starks and Jonathan Dwyer.
Reggie Wayne ($6.17 million), T.Y. Hilton ($707k), LaVon Brazill ($590k), Da'Rick Rogers and Griff Whalen ($495k)
Of the aforementioned five, I project four to make the final roster in 2014, with either Rogers or Whalen being left out. This would leave one player to be acquired via the draft or free agency.
The draft makes more sense for the Colts to look for talent, especially if a receiver like Jordan Matthews fell to the Colts in the second round. However, don't be surprised if the Colts look to free agency to sign a long-term starter alongside Wayne and Hilton, a player who would essentially replace Wayne in the starting lineup after next season.
Overall Expected FA Spending: $0 (Just don't think it happens)
Guard: Donald Thomas ($3.75 million), Hugh Thornton ($641k)
These two are likely your 2014 starting guards, but the Colts need to sign two depth guards (one of whom could also be a depth tackle). Ideally, at least one guard should be talented enough to push Thornton for the starting right guard spot. Potential signees start with former Colts, such as Joe Reitz, Jeff Linkenbach and Mike McGlynn.
Fans may riot if McGlynn is re-signed, but it seems as a probable occurrence at this point.
Overall Expected FA Spending: $1.5-2 million
Potential Targets: Mike McGlynn, Jeff Linkenbach, Joe Reitz, Mike Pollak (!!!), Charlie Johnson (!!!!!!!!), Rich Ohrnberger, Chad Rinehart and Vladimir Ducasse.
Center: Samson Satele ($5.07 million), Khaled Holmes ($600k)
I fully expect Satele to be gone in 2014. Not only for the sake of fans' stress levels, but because he is currently allotted over $5 million of the 2014 cap. The Colts would save $4 million by cutting him, and considering the fact that he's one of the worst starting centers in the league, it wouldn't be much of a loss.
Center is a position that the Colts very likely will spend a good amount of money on. There are several high-quality centers available, and the position is a huge weakness of the Colts' offense. With Satele gone and Holmes not having the necessary talent or experience to take on a starting job, the Colts could make a splash signing at center.
Overall Expected FA Spending: $5-7 million
Potential Targets: Alex Mack, Evan Dietrich-Smith and Brian de la Puente.
Defensive End: Ricky Jean Francois ($5.13 million), Cory Redding ($4.39 million), Montori Hughes ($545k)
Defensive (Nose) Tackle: Josh Chapman ($549k)
While they're not the ideal starters, Jean Francois and Redding likely are slotted into the 2014 starting lineup. It would be a big surprise if the Colts spent big money on a starter after paying Jean Francois the contract they did last season.
They do, however, need at least two more rotational defensive ends and a nose tackle to split time with Chapman. While one very well could come as a late-round pick, they should sign at least two rotational linemen. Recent Colts such as Jeris Pendleton, Fili Moala or Ricardo Mathews could be signees.
Overall Expected FA Spending: $1-2.5 million
Potential Targets: Fili Moala, Ricardo Mathews, Jeris Pendleton, Cam Thomas, Earl Mitchell, Terrence Cody and Alex Carrington.
Kelvin Sheppard ($780k), Andy Studebaker ($730k), Jerrell Freeman ($577k), Mario Harvey ($570k), Josh McNary ($495k)
My projections included four of these players to be in Indianapolis next season, with Harvey or Sheppard being two strong possibilities for release. If the Colts want to keep Justin Hickman (ERFA), they likely only keep three of these players on the final roster in September.
What it boils down to is that the Colts likely either draft an inside linebacker in the second or third round, or sign a starter in free agency. Drafting a player in one of the higher rounds would be the better option long-term, but the Colts have so many holes that signing one seems like a strong option at this point. There aren't many slam-dunk signings available, so a smaller deal for a short-term solution would be more likely.
Overall Expected FA Spending: $2-3 million
Potential Targets: Akeem Jordan, Arthur Moats and Daryl Smith.
Cornerback: Greg Toler ($4.83 million), Darius Butler ($2.50 million), Sheldon Price ($495k)
I don't expect Price to make the final 53 in 2014, although even if he doesn't the player that would take his place would likely have a similar cap hit. But the Colts need to sign at least two, if not three corners in free agency, including a No. 1 cornerback, who will be an expensive purchase.
The No. 1 target for said spot would be Vontae Davis, but there are other cornerbacks available. The Colts have to spend big on a corner, it will be a complete shock if they do not. The other signings would be small, as they would be fourth and fifth corners. Josh Gordy and/or Cassius Vaughn could very well be back as one of the said depth cornerbacks.
Overall Expected FA Spending: $8-10 million
Potential Targets: Vontae Davis, Alterraun Verner, Dominique Rogers-Cromartie, Chris Harris Jr., Captain Munnerlyn, Sam Shields and Tarell Brown.
LaRon Landry ($4.75 million), Corey Lynch ($730k), Delano Howell ($570k)
My projections wouldn't include Lynch making the final roster, but they would need a similar player for depth, so it wouldn't surprise me. The Colts went into the season with five safeties on the roster last season, and I'd expect something similar in 2014.
The first priority is signing a starter to go alongside Landry. Again, the Colts could definitely make a splash signing here, with Jairus Byrd being a strong candidate to play free safety over the top as Landry plays down in the box, similar to how Ed Reed and Bernard Pollard played in Baltimore. They could try to go with a more well-rounded candidate as well, and play the two safeties interchangeably as they did in 2013.
The Colts would need to sign at least one other safety for depth, if not two, but they wouldn't take up much space. Sergio Brown was a fan favorite for his special teams work in 2013, and has a solid chance of coming back to Indianapolis in 2014.
Overall Expected FA Spending: $7-9 million
Potential Targets: Jairus Byrd, Donte Whitner, T.J. Ward, Chris Clemons
LS Matt Overton ($570k)
With Pat McAfee and Adam Vinatieri both becoming free agents in 2014, the Colts need to replace the two most important specialists. The most likely scenario is that both McAfee and Vinatieri are back in 2014, but it can't be locked in.
McAfee would want to be paid as one of the highest-paid punters in the league. He's worth it, for his punting and work as one of the Colts most important public figures, but negotiations will be contested. Vinatieri is likely looking for his last contract, likely around two years for $2-3 million per year.
Overall Expected FA Spending: $5-6 million
Projected Targets: Pat McAfee, Adam Vinatieri, Billy Cundiff, Josh Brown, Donnie Jones, Zoltan Mesko