In the latest edition of our “Potential Colts Cap Casualty” series, we’ll take a look at another highly paid veteran of the Indianapolis Colts, who could theoretically be under consideration for release. Only this time, it won’t be a player on the defensive side of the football. Unlike LaRon Landry, Greg Toler, Ricky Jean-Francois, and Erik Walden before him, this player plays along the Colts offensive line, as it’s starting right tackle Gosder Cherilus.
Nov 24, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Indianapolis Colts offensive tackle Gosder Cherilus (78) against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals defeated the Colts 40-11. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
While I could put the breaks on this write-up all together because I know the end cap result, I’ll continue my evalauation for the same reasons Kevin Costner loves starring in baseball movies, “For Love of the Game“.
Gosder Cherilus was placed on season-ending reserve in December of this past season due to a groin injury among his other various physical ailments. It was a fitting end to what was a season that saw Cherilus much maligned by both physical injuries and ineffectiveness.
The 7-year veteran started 13 games for the Colts at right tackle, but was eventually shut down as he clearly wasn’t right and couldn’t play at a high level anymore with no real end in sight. It clearly showed up in his play, as Cherilus received an advanced grade of -16.8 overall per ProFootballFocus (subscription) as he was the 70th rated offensive tackle in football (both left and right) among qualifiers.
To add further insult to Cherilus’ apparent injuries, according to ProFootballFocus, he also led the league in allowed QB Hits with 15 despite missing the Colts final 3 regular season games. While it could also be Cherilus simply getting older and experiencing dimishing skills, having turned 30 years old, it’s hard to envision he could’ve had that steep of a drop-off. He’s just one year removed from a 2013 regular season where he received a +7.1 overall grade and was the 26th best tackle in the league per ProFootballFocus. For the Colts, it’s their sincere hope that Cherilus was affected by injury more than anything else this past season.
Even with such optimistic thinking, the Colts have to be rather wary of Cherilus’ contract regardless. He’s set to have a $6.9MM cap hit in 2015, which is among the Top 20 of highest paid offensive tackles in the game. Cherilus’ performance in 2014, even when he was fully healthy, didn’t warrant such a lucrative contract.
2015 Cap hit: $6.9M
Potential “Dead Money” if Released: $8.7M
2015 Cap Savings if Released: -$1.8M
Outlook: The above really tells you all that you need to know. It would cost the Colts more to cut Cherilus this season than it would to keep him. The Colts only realistic option is to hope that it was injuries rather than age that caused Cherilus to be one of the worst starting offensive tackles in all of football last season, and that he can make a full recovery.
Nov 10, 2013; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts tackle Gosder Cherilus (78) during the game against the St. Louis Rams at Lucas Oil Stadium. The Rams won 38-8. Mandatory Credit: Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports
To their point too, it would seem rather bizarre that Cherilus could have such a significant drop-off in his play in just one season if it was simply age related. While he wasn’t great with the Colts in 2014, he was still a pretty good starting right tackle all things considered. The Colts have to
pray that the 2014 Cherilus returns and that this past season’s diminished version was the aftermath of various physical ailments.
With Cherilus taking up so much of their cap space and not a realistic release candidate in 2015, the team really can’t afford to invest any more significant cap space into the offensive takle position with starting left tackle Anthony Castonzo already having a big cap hit ($7.4M) in 2015 himself. Instead, re-signing versatile swing offensive lineman Joe Reitz could be a high priority, as he made 2 postseason starts for the Colts at right tackle in Cherilus’ absence, filling in rather admirably.
There’s no doubt though that Cherilus will remain a member of the Indianapolis Colts next season, like it or not. He won’t be a serious candidate for release until at least the 2016 season, where cutting him would save the Colts $4.1M. In the mean time, the Colts and their fans will have to hope that next year’s Gosder Cherilus is closer to the solid starting right tackle we saw in 2014, rather than the broken down and perhaps eroding player we saw this past season.
Oct 26, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Indianapolis Colts tackle Gosder Cherilus (78) blocks at the line of scrimmage against Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Jason Worilds (93) during the third quarter at Heinz Field. The Steelers won 51-34. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports