As just the latest edition of our “Potential Colts Cap Casualty” series, we’ll take a look at another member of the Indianapolis Colts defense in Ricky Jean-Francois. The 6th-year veteran joins fellow defensive teammates in Greg Toler and LaRon Landry, as a highly paid veteran player who could be under consideration for release this offseason.
Jan 11, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Indianapolis Colts defensive end Ricky Jean Francois (99) reacts 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
Originally signed to a lucrative 4-year, $22 million dollar contract in March of 2013, Jean-Francois hasn’t been a bad defensive lineman for the Colts by any means. In fact, he’s been rather productive and a solid rotational defensive lineman. This past season, Jean-Francois recorded 28 tackles and 3 sacks, starting in 13 of the team’s regular season games. However, given his production, he remains a bit overpaid all things considered.
It’s not apparent in his sack total either, as 3-4 defensive ends are largely required to hold blocks rather than pass rush. However, per ProFootballFocus (subscription), his advanced grade of +0.4 overall during the NFL’s regular season effectively placed him as the 26th best 3-4 defensive end in all of football.
While that’s a fairly sound mark, Jean-Francois’ 2015 cap hit of $6.1 million (via Spotrac) is just ~$300K less than San Francisco 49ers defensive end Justin Smith, who remains one of the best 3-4 defensive ends in football and was graded out as the 11th best overall player at his position per ProFootballFocus. Consequently, there’s a bit of a disparity between Jean-Francois’ actual production and pay.
2015 Cap hit: $6.125M
Potential “Dead Money” if Released: $1.25M
2015 Cap Savings if Released: $4.88
Regarding Jean-Francois, the 28-year old is seemingly in his prime and should still have some productive years left for the Colts. With 34-year old veteran leader Cory Redding a free agent and a possibility to retire, the Colts may not want to replace two starting caliber 3-4 defensive ends this offseason if they were to actually release Jean-Francois.
The team lacks proven in-house candidates to replace either one as a starting caliber 3-4 defensive end, with Arthur Jones presumably the other remaining starter at the position. The only defensive lineman worth serious consideration may be soon-to-be 2nd year pro Zach Kerr. Although the undrafted free agent from Delaware showed initial promise, he was one of the players frequently a healthy scratch from the active roster in the team’s last handful of games, as he suffered through inconsistency.While Jean-Francois is slightly overpaid, he’s been a pretty solid rotational defensive lineman for the Colts during his two seasons with the team. Given that the team could also lose Redding for next season, and the meager savings really aren’t enough to warrant releasing Jean-Francois, when the team would have to spend at least $4-5 million annually on a starting caliber 3-4 defensive end to replace him anyways.He should remain in Horseshoe Blue, although a restructuring of his contract could be a distinct possibility to lower his 2015 cap hit.
Dec 14, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois (99) reacts to making a quarterback sack against the Houston Texans at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports