In part 3 of the Colts offseason checklist, look at the potential salary cap casualties and trade candidates for the Indianapolis Colts season ahead of free agency and the 2023 NFL Draft. The Indianapolis Colts will have 30 million in cap space to maneuver around. While that doesn’t sound a lot it is 11th in the league for money left over and they can open a substantial amount with the proper player movement.
Nickel DB Kenny Moore II
If Indianapolis is looking for a player to add for a potential trade with Chicago for the #1 pick in April’s Draft, look no further than Kenny Moore II. Kenny had one of his worst seasons to date this season under first year DC Gus Bradley.
Which legendary NFL defense would love to resurrect?
1985 Chicago Bears
1976 Pittsburgh Steelers
2000 Baltimore Ravens
2002 Tampa Bay Bucs
1986 New York Giants
2013 Seattle Seahawks
There was a system that Moore flourished in and that was former Colts DC (now Chicago Bears HC) Matt Eberflus. He has recently discussed his affinity for Eberflus and how he would like to join him again in the future. Should be noted as well, Moore asked for a new contract this offseason and one was not granted to him by the Colts brass.
LB Shaquille Leonard
Leonard’s name has been thrown around for years in trade discussions with the Indianapolis Colts. He has struggled to stay healthy this season but when he is on the field he absolutely delivers.
He was loathed by most draft experts when Ballard drafted him in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Most believed he was drafted too early and his lesser competition from an HBCU school wouldn’t prepare him for the NFL.
Leonard has proved every doubter wrong. Leonard is now a three-time NFL All-Pro and turnover creating machine. His contract number is large and will make him a trade target this season for a team that needs some game changing linebacker play.
DT DeForest Buckner
Buckner has been Mr. Consistent since he was traded to Indianapolis in 2020 from San Francisco in pre-draft trade.
While many fans in Indianapolis have argued it was wrong to trade for a Buckner like player in 2020 with franchise QBs on the board before the draft started, Buckner has quietly put together All-Pro stats and has only missed one game since the trade.
He signed a 4 year 84-million-dollar extension upon being traded. So that number is now at about 18 million against the salary cap for this coming season.
Safety Julian Blackmon
With the breakout rookie season for Colts 2022 7th round selection Rodney Thomas and Nick Cross expected to have more of a role, Blackmon has become more expandable this offseason.
After missing most of his sophomore season with a torn Achilles, he has been a reliable option but never a superstar option. He is only 24 years old and could be kept as a depth piece.
But with so many holes that need to be filled on this football team, Blackmon could be the one player Indy looks to move to beef up some draft capital to a secondary needy team.
RB Johnathan Taylor
This is highly, highly unlikely but it should be worth mentioning. Taylor is up for a contract extension this coming year. With Reich, it was run first system and made Taylor the focal point of the offense. The NFL is changing into a pass happy league and with the current uncertainty at head coach, Taylor immediately becomes a trade possibility.
Taylor won the rushing title, rushing TDs title and was an All Pro in 2021. Until this past season, he had never missed a game in his entire football career dating back to high school. He has a lot of tread on those legs as well with over 6,000 yards at Wisconsin and now another nearly 4,000 yards in the NFL. We have seen this from the likes of Dallas RB Ezekiel Elliott, sometimes you start getting worn down and the team is hesitant to give a big money contract.
Colts GM Chris Ballard has said he would like to get a deal done with him but if they can’t come to a resolution then Taylor will, without question, be dealt this offseason.
Salary Cap Casualties
QB Matt Ryan
We all saw it this season, Matt Ryan is finished. He has a had a potentially hall of fame career, but his arm is shot and doesn’t have the mobility needed for the current NFL model QB. The Colts were hoping to catch lighting in a bottle with Ryan and hoped it was like the success other aging QBs (Brady and Rodgers) were currently having. I don’t see any team giving any type of value to a 38-year-old QB so the Colts can save another 17 million dollars by cutting him.
They will endure a dead cap hit of another 18 million but it’s only for one year and that can be absorbed with a rookie QB coming in. The Colts best scenario would be for him to announce his retirement where they would only endure a 6 million dollar dead cap hit and save nearly 29 million. I doubt Ryan retires but this season was his worst yet and the market for him as a starter has run dry.
CB Stephon Gilmore
Gilmore was brought into Indianapolis to help win a Super Bowl and give them a “lockdown” corner. Obviously, with the underwhelming season in Indianapolis this makes Gilmore a candidate for either a trade or for a cap casualty. Gilmore can still play at a high level and proved that this season. He had 11 pass deflections with 2 INTs and 59 total tackles.
Most importantly, he was healthy with 16 starts. Gilmore is now 32 years old and while does have a Super Bowl title on his resume, he wants to play for a contender as his career begins to unwind. Gilmore would most likely bring back a Day 3 selection in the NFL draft with any trade and if that cannot be achieved, he will most likely be released.
Center Ryan Kelly
If there is one area of the roster that all teams look for to improve, it’s the offensive line. While Kelly had a very underwhelming season compared to his large contract, he is still young and can deliver starter production. He is the highest paid center in the league at 4 years and 50 million that he signed after the 2020 season. He has two years left on the current deal and will be UFA after the 2024 season.
While swing guard and backup center Danny Pinter was benched due to poor play this season, he has excelled at the center position when needed. Colts may look to make this a permanent solution to free up some cap space if they cannot find a trade partner for Kelly and his massive contract.
TE Mo Allie Cox
MAC had an underwhelming year but will still be on the radar of many teams. Most of this season should be chalked up to poor quarterback play. A former college basketball player turned NFL TE has delivered in his tenure. The Colts love to have depth at this position, but he has become potentially expandable with 2 very capable (and cheaper) options on the roster.
Rookie TE Jelani Woods had a great rookie campaign and 2nd year TE Kylen Granson was productive leading all Colts TE with 33 receptions. They also drafted TE Andrew Ogletree in the 2022 draft but lost him to an ACL injury in training camp. His contract is very manageable at 3 years and about 12 million left. Making him ripe for a cap casualty and freeing up some room on the 2023 salary cap.
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