After all, now that the 2021 salary cap has been finalized and the franchise tag window has closed, teams around the league have responded accordingly by releasing disposable players slated to have unaffordable cap hits.
Fortunately for the Colts, their sumptuous cap situation means they can focus all of their attention on free agency, as they’re projected to have roughly $50 million at their disposal.
That’s the fourth-most of any team, even following the trade for Carson Wentz.
Taking potential extensions for star players (like Darius Leonard) into consideration, that should still be more than enough for Indy to sign at least two studs on the open market. However, Pro Football Focus seems to think GM Chris Ballard will splurge on three high-profile free agents.
According to PFF, the Colts will sign offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva, wide receiver Will Fuller, and cornerback Chidobe Awuzie this offseason.
If Pro Football Focus’ offseason projections are any indication, the Colts are going to enjoy themselves in free agency.
Here’s a quick breakdown of PFF’s contract for each player:
- Fuller: five years for $87.5 million ($25M guaranteed)
- Villanueva: three years for $45 million ($30M guaranteed)
- Awuzie: three years for $27 million ($15.5M guaranteed)
These might not be the names on the top of fans shopping lists, but each of them would fill a significant need for the Colts.
For starters, having averaged a whopping 14.9 yards per reception over his career, Fuller is arguably the most prolific deep threat of any receiver in the league. On top of that, nearly 30% of the former first-rounder’s targets across the last three seasons have resulted in a gain of 15 or more yards, according to PFF.
We’re admittedly a little alarmed by Fuller’s injury history (he’s never played in all 16 games over five seasons), so giving him $17.5 million annually would be a serious gamble for Indy. However, the fact that he’s only 26 years old and coming off a career year makes this a risk worth taking.
Up next is Villanueva, who ranks 12th among all left tackles in pass-blocking grade over the last three campaigns (80.4) and is equally adept to opening up holes in the run game. Some fans might prefer a younger solution after Anthony Castonzo retired at the young age of 32, but Villanueva’s experience would be a huge boost for Wentz and the rest of the offensive line.
Finally, we have Awuzie, whose skill in zone schemes makes him an ideal fit in the Colts defense. For context, Indy’s zone coverage usage (76.6% of snaps) was the second-highest of any team in the league last season.
Awuzie will have to hold his own in man-to-man, but the Colts’ defensive system will help bring out the best of his coverage skills, as he ranks 19th among all cornerbacks in zone coverage grade since entering the league as a second-round pick back in 2017.
These predictions obviously don’t guarantee anything, but if Indianapolis is able to pull off a similar string of signings in free agency, fans will have very little to complain about. After all, left tackle, receiver and cornerback are easily their three of their biggest needs.