Vontae Davis, Cornerback
To me, this is probably the least likely salary cap casualty of any Colts player that I’ll mention, as Vontae Davis has consistently been the Colts best defensive player over the past few seasons when healthy.
Before saying, “That’s not saying much,” keep in mind that in 2014, Davis was one of the best cornerbacks in all of the NFL and also followed it up with a pretty good 2015 season–having been named a Pro Bowler for consecutive seasons.
That being said, while Davis showed flashes of dominance (i.e. his Week 6 shadowing shutdown performance against the Houston Texans DeAndre Hopkins comes to mind), he also had his fair share of struggles (i.e. his Week 12 burnings against the Pittsburgh Steelers Antonio Brown) this past season.
While cutting Davis would save the Colts a $9M cap hit, the issue is who are the Colts going to get to reasonably replace him that’s an upgrade–especially since the team could already be looking to replace Robinson as the CB2.
If the Colts know that the team can sign Houston Texans soon-to-be prized free agent A.J. Bouye at cornerback, maybe Indianapolis actually makes that move.
However, the Colts already have pass rusher, inside linebacker, safety, cornerback, running back, etc. at the top of their list, and the team can only fill so many holes in one offseason. After all, a team only gets so many draft picks, and there are only so many marquee free agents who would actually be a clear upgrade.
If Davis has another down season in 2017, maybe the Colts should make such a move. However, he’ll only be 29 years old next season and showed some flashes of his familiar self this past season–battling a number of injuries.
Potentially also helping Davis’ cause should be if the Colts actually improve their pass rush, which would mitigate the amount of time that he’s left ‘on an island’ against the opposing team’s best wide receiver.
The team will need a number of returning veterans to mentor some of their expected younger defensive players, so like Langford, Davis seems like a safe bet to be brought back.
By cutting him, the Colts would just add another hole to what already is too long of a list for just one offseason, and he’s one of the few proven players on their defense–if he can just stay healthy.