Potential Colts Cap Casualty: Donald Thomas


In the latest edition of our “Potential Colts Cap Casualty” series, we’ll take another look at yet another highly paid veteran of the Indianapolis Colts, who could be under serious consideration for release this offseason. Like the player covered just before him in Gosder Cherilus, it’s a member of the Colts offensive line. Only this time, it’s former starting right guard Donald Thomas. Previously, we have also covered LaRon Landry, Greg Toler, Ricky Jean-Francois, and Erik Walden on the defensive side of the football for your viewing pleasure.

Sep 15, 2013; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts guard Donald Thomas (66) is carried off the field against the Miami Dolphins during the first half at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

Donald Thomas was originally signed to a 4-year, $14 million dollar deal in March of 2013 with the Indianapolis Colts. Unfortunately for Thomas, that’s been about the highlight of his Colts career. He’s only played in 72 snaps for the team since then, as he’s missed nearly the entirety of the past two seasons with the same torn quad.

The 7-year veteran was thought to be the long-term answer at the team’s starting right guard position, as the Colts had plucked him from New England at the end of the 2012 season, where he had been an effective spot starter in 7 starts. However, as mentioned, Thomas hasn’t been able to stay on the field with the Colts, and ultimately, it could cost him his roster spot this offseason.

To his credit, Thomas was highly productive as a starting guard for the Patriots all the way back in 2012. According to ProFootballFocus (subscription), his +9.7 overall rating was 2nd on his team at guard only to All-Pro veteran Logan Mankins. This carried over to the Colts too in his brief stint in 2013, as he had a +1.1 overall grade in his aforementioned 72 snaps. However, Thomas suffered a season-ending torn quad twice since then, and now he’s in a bit of a roster predicament.

2015 Cap hit: $3.75M

Potential “Dead Money” if Released: $500K

2015 Cap Savings if Released: $3.25M

May 29, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts guard Donald Thomas (66) walks to the locker room during organized team activities at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Outlook: Donald Thomas has appeared to be a hardworking veteran player since his arrival with the Colts in 2013. However, unfortunately, the NFL is a business of results at the end of the day. He hasn’t been able to see the field in nearly two seasons due to season-ending quad injuries, and the Colts may be better served using his allotted cap space elsewhere.

While the Colts could certainly use an immediate answer at the starting right guard spot, Thomas offers more questions than answers at this point. The team really can’t afford to have a repeat of last season where Hugh Thornton was largely ineffective and injury plagued, and veteran journeyman back-up Lance Louis was forced to make 7 spot starts in relief at starting right guard.

Recently, we mentioned the signing of San Francisco 49ers free agent guard Mike Iupati as a distinct possibility. The cap space freed up by releasing Thomas could arguably be better utilized by bringing the aforementioned 27-year old All-Pro guard to the Colts, who will likely command $6-8 million annually in cap space on the open market.

It’s unfortunate for Thomas, but there’s clearly some major red flags with his injury history, and the Colts would be better served using his cap space for a more durable and dependable player for 2015 and beyond. The Colts don’t know if Thomas can make a full recovery in 2015, let alone if he can stay on the field. As such, he looks like he’s in serious danger of an offseason release.

Jul 29, 2013; Anderson, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts offensive guards Donald Thomas (66) and Mike McGlynn (75) go through blocking drills during the Indianapolis Colts training camp at Anderson University. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports