The Indianapolis Colts could release a number of underperforming veterans from their active roster this offseason. The primary objective of course would be to clear additional cap space to help upgrade the team in several positional areas of need.
As of this past season, the Colts had $119MM committed in salaries, but the salary cap is supposed to increase from $133MM to at least $138.6MM for next season, giving them additional leeway. Of course, if the Colts release a number of underachieving veterans, that cap space total could jump from around an estimated $20MM of room to an upwards of $40MM.
However, like we’ve seen from a few of the Colts own signed free agent disappointments, “buyer beware”, as a team never really knows what they’re going to get from a prominent free agent acquisition.
Aug 23, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts strong safety LaRon Landry (30) reacts after a play against the New Orleans Saints at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports
The Colts 1st potential “Cap Casualty” that we’ll look at is starting safety LaRon Landry. The 8-year veteran signed a 4-year, $24MM dollar deal in the 2013 offseason, but he has been largely ineffective as the team’s starting safety over the past two seasons.
On the year, Landry started the 1st 4 games of the regular season before losing his starting job to Sergio Brown because of a 4-game PED suspension. While he eventually reclaimed his starting job, which created a bit of a stir among Colts fans as Brown had filled-in admirably, Landry still didn’t perform at a consistently high level upon his return.
On the season, in 8 starts, Landry had 63 tackles and 2.5 sacks. It’s worth noting that he did prove situationally useful late in the season as an occasional blitzer. However, according to ProFootballFocus (subscription), his -1.9 overall grade (including regular season and playoffs) ranked him as the 58th best safety overall, well below the production expected from a safety with such a lucrative contract.
In contrast, Sergio Brown, who started 8 games for the team this season, had a +4.7 grade overall per ProFootballFocus, ranking him as tied for the 23rd best safety overall. His $1.4MM cap number in 2014 paled in comparison to Landry’s $4.0MM cap hit this past season. On the year, Brown recorded 34 tackles and 1 sack, both as a fill-in starter and playing on special teams.
2015 Cap hit: $5.6MM
Potential “Dead Money” if Released: $3.5MM
2015 Cap Savings if Released: $2.1MM
Outlook: While the savings aren’t significant, the Colts could clearly use an upgrade alongside veteran Mike Adams (free agent) at safety next season, a player I’m sure the team would like to re-sign given his solid production and leadership last season. While Landry was brought in to be an “enforcer” on the backside of the team’s defense (a la former Colts’ great Bob Sanders), what we’ve really seen is a safety who is often out of position and takes poor angles to the football.
Jan 11, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Indianapolis Colts safety LaRon Landry (30) 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
Landry may look the part in the mirror given his imposing muscular stature and bulging biceps, but he hasn’t played like it at all on the field. Given his 4-game PED suspension, and it makes you seriously wonder whether Landry is better served as a body builder than natural football player.
The Colts need to get quicker, more athletic, and younger at the safety position, and Landry really doesn’t help solve any of those areas at 30 years old anymore. While he proved useful somewhat situationally late in the season, the team needs to find a rangy safety that can really play centerfield for their defense and make plays all over the field. In comparison, Landry is a traditional “in-the-box” run-stuffing safety, who hasn’t been all that effective in this assumed role with the Colts.
The $2.1MM savings isn’t a whole lot, but it could be better utilized towards bringing in an upgrade at safety over Landry. The Colts absolutely have to get better at the position, and if Landry isn’t starting, he’s not all that useful given that he’d be a really overpaid special teams player and isn’t a natural fit there. Given the previous PED headache and Landry’s underwelming 2014 season, and he seems like an easy cap casualty for next season.
Jan 18, 2015; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman (left) is upended by Indianapolis Colts free safety LaRon Landry (30) after catching a pass in the third quarter in the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports