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While the Indianapolis Colts season is just over 3 days away, I can’t help but look even further ahead – to next season – to see how our potential roster will shape up. If you recall, we had a boatload of money to spend during the 2013 offseason. If we take our current roster and assume that we sign all of our exclusive rights free agents in the 2014 offseason (players with 2 or fewer years of accrued NFL experience) and we retain our current players on injured reserve, we would have 39 players under contract. The contracts of those 39 players would count approximately $84M towards our 2014 salary cap. In addition, we currently have just over $2M of dead cap space that will count against us in 2014. As such, we would have 39 players under contract with just over $86M of cap space tied up. That would leave us an estimate $38M of money to spend in the 2014 offseason. So where do we spend all that money?
Let me first say that while it sounds like a lot of money, it actually isn’t that much. Approximately $4M of the cap space will go to our 2014 rookie class. That leaves $34M. Fortunately, we appear to be good at quarterback with Luck and Hasselbeck under contract for next year. We will have big needs at running back with Donald Brown and Ahmad Bradshaw unrestricted free agents at year’s end. That will leave just Stanley Havili and Vick Ballard as our only running backs on the roster. Let’s assume we draft a running back with our first pick – something that I think could happen. We will still need to sign some depth. Let’s assume that depth costs us a total of $3M. We’re down to $31M of cap space.
Now let’s look at our receivers. We’ll be fine at tight end with Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener under contract. We also have exclusive rights to Jack Doyle and Dominique Jones and we’re currently carrying Justice Cunningham on our practice squad. Again, we should be fine. We will have a need at receiver. DHB is an unrestricted free agent at the end of this year. We will only have Reggie (in his last year), T.Y., Griff Whalen (in his last year before restricted free agency), LaVon Brazil, and David Reed (in his last year). Again, this could be a position where we draft someone. Still, we’ll need depth. I could see us signing a decent free agent to be a primary receiver for us after Reggie. Let’s assume we spend decently on a WR and set aside $5M of cap room for this signing. That leaves us with $26M of cap space.
The core group of our offensive line will return in 2014. That said, we need some additional depth. This will come via the draft and through free agency. Let’s sit aside $2M of cap space for offensive linemen. That leaves $24M of cap space.
The core group of our defensive line will also return in 2014. This group includes Cory Redding, Ricky Jean-Francois, Montori Hughes and Josh Chapman. We may sign some depth through free agency. Let’s sit aside $2M of cap space for defensive linemen. That leaves $22M of cap space.
Pat Angerer and Kavell Conner are unrestricted free agents after this year. While we will have needs to fill after 2014, we should be in good shape for 2014. Again, we’ll likely go after depth – let’s set aside $2M of cap space for linebackers thus leaving us $20M.
Our secondary will be a huge area of focus after this season. We lose quite a bit. Our only CBs under contract will be Greg Toler and Darius Butler. Our only safeties under contract will be LaRon Landry and Delano Howell. In addition to depth, we will likely spend money to retain Vontae Davis. I also think he could be a franchise player candidate. The franchise tag for CBs in 2013 cost $10.7M. Yikes! There goes a lot of cap space. Let’s also assume we spend another $2M on depth. That leaves us with only $7.3M.
Last on the list – our special teams. Both Vinatieri and McAfee are unrestricted free agents at year’s end. I can’t imagine that McAfee won’t get a long term deal. I would expect a cap hit around $2M for him in 2014. An aging Vinatieri is another story. I could see us drafting or signing via free agency a kicker. Let’s assume we sign someone for $1M via free agency. That would leave us with $4.3M. We will need that amount of cap space to account for injured players and future dead cap space.
Let’s check this post as training camp starts next year to challenge my accuracy! In all seriousness – we will have the cash, but we will spend quickly (and hopefully wisely) to fill key holes.