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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Colts free agency preview

Offense

All things considered, the Colts’ situation on offense is pretty solid. A unit that improved significantly last year already has its star quarterback and running back locked into long-term contracts. Indianapolis also returns every starter on the third-best offensive line of 2023, according to PFF.

The one glaring issue the Colts will have to tackle headfirst is at wide receiver. Pittman deserves to be paid like one of the best players in the league at a premium position. He will command a lucrative deal and Spotrac estimates his market value salary at $22.7 million per year. If Indianapolis cannot re-sign him, Ballard will have to look elsewhere to replace his team’s sole elite pass-catcher.

Beyond the Pittman question mark, the Colts’ offensive needs largely revolve around depth. Depending on who Indianapolis re-signs, the Colts may be in the market for a backup QB and RB as well as additional support on the offensive line or in the wide receiver and tight end rooms.

Defense

Defense was a problem area for Indianapolis last season and Ballard could get aggressive in free agency to turn the unit around. While the Colts allowed the fifth-most points in the NFL, they’re not exactly working with a blank slate. Ebukam, Buckner, Odeyingbo, and Kwity Paye are all big-time contributors on the defensive line. Franklin and Speed have the two linebacker spots locked down and the Colts have some potential long-term pieces in the secondary.

However, that’s where the positives stop. The Colts' offseason priorities on defense will likely involve (1) upgrading the secondary from top to bottom and (2) bolstering the front seven with more depth.

In 2023, the Indianapolis defensive backfield was in constant flux, partly due to injuries (Dallis Flowers, JuJu Brents, and Blackmon) and partly due to poor performance (Darrell Baker Jr. and Rodney Thomas II).

At minimum, the Colts will need to address key impending free agents Blackmon and Moore. But, realistically, the team could be open to anything, whether that means pursuing new starting cornerbacks and safeties or just bringing in fresh talent that can be a part of the rotation.

Up front, Indianapolis may look to add defensive tackle options, especially if either Stewart or Bryan departs, another linebacker to play behind the Frankin/Speed duo, and more pass rush production because, well, you always need more of that.

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