Colts free agency primer: Breaking down the salary-cap situation and what it means

The Colts approach 2024 free agency armed with over $50 million in cap space but they have
high expectations for next season and a lot of work to do

Houston Texans v Indianapolis Colts
Houston Texans v Indianapolis Colts / Michael Hickey/GettyImages
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State of the roster

Who's already signed through next season?

Indianapolis not only has tons of cap space this offseason but the team also returns the vast majority of an almost-playoff-worthy roster. Using the Colts’ final regular season depth chart from Week 18, just four of that game’s starters across offense and defense will be free agents. Everyone else is set to come back unless Indianapolis decides to make a change.

The returning group includes most of the team’s key difference-makers on both sides of the ball. Elite talents like Taylor, Nelson, Buckner, and Zaire Franklin will provide much-needed stability for this squad going into 2024.

Of course, there’s a reason the Colts are so far under the cap with only modest roster turnover. While other teams allocate upwards of $60 million to their franchise quarterbacks, Indianapolis’ Anthony Richardson is on a rookie contract, which gives the Colts at least three more years of financial flexibility. It also helps that Ballard has generally leaned on younger players (Josh Downs, Jaylon Jones, and Dayo Odeyingbo) and shrewd dealmaking (Samson Ebukam and E.J. Speed) to fill roster holes frugally.

Who could leave in free agency?

Although Indianapolis will bring back much of their 2023 squad, we can’t ignore the valuable players who they may lose in free agency. By my count, four of the Colts’ sure-fire would-be starters — Michael Pittman Jr., Grover Stewart, Kenny Moore II, and Julian Blackmon — are on expiring contracts.

That means Indianapolis might not retain their No. 1 wideout, a veteran run stuffer, and arguably the team's two best defensive backs. Whether or not Ballard can re-sign everyone, or anyone, in that group will be a pivotal offseason question for the franchise.

On top of that, there are also a number of other notable Colts who will hit free agency such as Gardner Minshew, Zack Moss, Tyquan Lewis, Taven Bryan, and Rigoberto Sanchez. If Indianapolis lets any of these players walk, it wouldn’t necessarily be the end of the world, but it would create yet another void that needs to be filled.