Jan 11, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Indianapolis Colts defensive end Arthur Jones (97) against the Denver Broncos in the 2014 AFC Divisional playoff football game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Colts defeated the Broncos 24-13. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
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With the Indianapolis Colts recently releasing D’Qwell Jackson, it begs the question of who else could be salary cap casualties for the Colts this offseason?
We take a look at six potential candidates:
Jan 4, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts defensive end Arthur Jones (97) against the Cincinnati Bengals during the 2014 AFC Wild Card playoff football game at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
Art Jones, Defensive Lineman
The releasing of Art Jones seems pretty likely right now, as cutting the oft-injured veteran defensive lineman would save the Colts $5.15M in cap space for 2017.
Since signing a 5-year, $33 million deal with the Colts in the 2014 offseason, Jones has missed 31 games over the past three seasons–including the entire 2015 regular season and simply hasn’t seen the field enough to make any sort of meaningful impact.
In addition to a number of ankle injuries, Jones was also suspended the first four games of last season for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs.
The 30 year old appeared in 8 games for the Colts last season–recording 30 total tackles, but was eventually shut down near season’s end because of injuries.
Out of all of the Colts potential cuts, Jones release seems like the most likely. In fact, it would be pretty surprising if he’s still a member of the team come next season.
In theory, Jones could help the Colts as a ‘run-suffer’. Problem is, that simply hasn’t happened as he’s been hurt too often to see the field.
Oct 2, 2016; London, United Kingdom; Indianapolis Colts cornerback Patrick Robinson (25) during game 15 of the NFL International Series against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley Stadium. The Jaguars defeated the Colts 30-27. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Patrick Robinson, Cornerback
Having signed a 3-year, $14 million deal with the Colts last offseason, Robinson appeared in just 7 games, as he recorded 26 tackles and a forced fumble.
Like Jones last season, Patrick Robinson simply didn’t see the field enough to make any sort of meaningful impact during his debut season in Indianapolis.
It doesn’t mean that Robinson can’t be a productive CB2 for the Colts (if healthy), but at the same time, he wasn’t new general manager Chris Ballard‘s signing–who owes him nothing.
Robinson did have a pretty solid season for the San Diego Chargers in the 2015 season before joining the Colts, when he was considered among the league’s best slot cornerbacks.
Cutting Robinson would save the Colts only $2.5 million in cap space next year, so the savings would be pretty small given the amount of free agency dollars or early draft pick that it may take to actually replace him as a starting cornerback.
Nov 20, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts running back Frank Gore (23) runs the ball after a catch in the first half of the game against the Tennessee Titans at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
Frank Gore, Running Back
This wouldn’t necessarily be considered a popular cut by new Colts general manager Chris Ballard, who’s being paid to build a Super Bowl contending team though–not campaign for President.
Specifically, Colts running back Frank Gore has always been widely respected by his teammates, locker rooms, and in league circles and is coming off a pretty productive season in which the 33 year old eclipsed 1,000 rushing yards for Indianapolis with 1,025 total rushing yards–while averaging 3.9 yards per carry.
That being said, the list of 34 year old starting running backs who managed to be productive rushers is very, very short (i.e. former greats Marcus Allen and Emmitt Smith).
It doesn’t mean that Gore can’t defy father time again, but at the same time, if the Colts draft a young running back in the early-mid rounds of this year’s NFL Draft, it raises the question of whether Gore–for all of his veteran leadership, toughness, and solid production, could be expendable.
It’s also worth noting that Gore, himself, could want one last opportunity to play for a contending team, whereas the Colts are probably at least a season away from seriously competing again–although winning the AFC South appears to be in reach.
Cutting Gore would save the Colts $3.5 million in cap space next season, but my calculated guess is that Indianapolis will select a running back in the early-mid rounds of this year’s NFL Draft to groom behind Gore for a season–maybe with a chance to even win the starting job outright.
Dec 20, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts defensive end Kendall Langford (90) reacts after a sack against the Houston Texans at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Kendall Langford, Defensive Lineman
If new Colts general manager reviewed only Kendall Langford‘s 2015 tape, there’d be no chance he’d cut the veteran, who had a standout debut season with the Colts.
Specifically, Langford started in all 16 games for the Colts, recording a tied for team-high of 7.0 sacks, 38 total tackles, and was arguably Indianapolis most valuable defensive lineman.
However, the 9-year veteran suffered from a lingering knee injury this past season and appeared in just 7 games, recording 10 tackles, as he was eventually shut down for the season after clearly not looking like the same type of impact player.
Despite the need to get younger collectively, the Colts defense will still need a few veteran players to show newbies the ropes and nuances of returning head coach Chuck Pagano‘s defensive system–not to mention for overall leadership in the locker room.
If Langford has fully recovered from his knee injury, then there’s no need for the Colts to cut him, as he’d be more than worth his $3.75 million cap hit for next season.
That being said, if Langford is still suffering from lingering knee problems, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that new Colts general manager Chris Ballard could try to use the savings to find a new starter along the defensive line elsewhere.
Oct 30, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts cornerback Vontae Davis (21) reacts to making a play against the Kansas City Chiefs at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Vontae Davis, Cornerback
To me, this is probably the least likely salary cap casualty of any Colts player that I’ll mention, as Vontae Davis has consistently been the Colts best defensive player over the past few seasons when healthy.
Before saying, “That’s not saying much,” keep in mind that in 2014, Davis was one of the best cornerbacks in all of the NFL and also followed it up with a pretty good 2015 season–having been named a Pro Bowler for consecutive seasons.
That being said, while Davis showed flashes of dominance (i.e. his Week 6 shadowing shutdown performance against the Houston Texans DeAndre Hopkins comes to mind), he also had his fair share of struggles (i.e. his Week 12 burnings against the Pittsburgh Steelers Antonio Brown) this past season.
While cutting Davis would save the Colts a $9M cap hit, the issue is who are the Colts going to get to reasonably replace him that’s an upgrade–especially since the team could already be looking to replace Robinson as the CB2.
If the Colts know that the team can sign Houston Texans soon-to-be prized free agent A.J. Bouye at cornerback, maybe Indianapolis actually makes that move.
However, the Colts already have pass rusher, inside linebacker, safety, cornerback, running back, etc. at the top of their list, and the team can only fill so many holes in one offseason. After all, a team only gets so many draft picks, and there are only so many marquee free agents who would actually be a clear upgrade.
If Davis has another down season in 2017, maybe the Colts should make such a move. However, he’ll only be 29 years old next season and showed some flashes of his familiar self this past season–battling a number of injuries.
Potentially also helping Davis’ cause should be if the Colts actually improve their pass rush, which would mitigate the amount of time that he’s left ‘on an island’ against the opposing team’s best wide receiver.
The team will need a number of returning veterans to mentor some of their expected younger defensive players, so like Langford, Davis seems like a safe bet to be brought back.
By cutting him, the Colts would just add another hole to what already is too long of a list for just one offseason, and he’s one of the few proven players on their defense–if he can just stay healthy.
Dec 13, 2015; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Indianapolis Colts guard Joe Reitz (76) looks on against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the second quarter at EverBank Field. The Jaguars won 51-16.Mandatory Credit: Jim Steve-USA TODAY Sports
Joe Reitz, Offensive Line
Once considered an invaluable backup swing tackle for the Colts, Joe Reitz is coming off a somewhat disappointing season in Indianapolis.
The 31 year old offensive lineman appeared in 13 games (6 starts), but appeared to be significantly hindered by a back injury among other physical ailments.
The 6-year veteran was among the offensive lineman the Colts plugged along their starting right side at times, but even with the veteran Reitz, the results were still inconsistent–if not ineffective.
It doesn’t mean that Reitz was the main problem for the Colts offensive line woes by any means, but he also didn’t appear to be a clear solution either.
Perhaps Reitz should play more at right guard instead of right tackle–the former which appears to be more of his natural position and a spot he’s clearly more comfortable in.
Nevertheless, cutting the veteran offensive lineman would save the Colts $2.4 million next season, and it certainly cannot be ruled out with a new general manager taking over and Reitz coming off a season hindered by injuries.