As an up-and-down season continues, it’s fair to say several players won’t be playing for the Indianapolis Colts next year.
How much roster turnover probably depends upon if owner Jim Irsay decides to start anew and part with general manager Ryan Grigson and head coach Chuck Pagano. Regardless of Irsay’s decision, the list of players who shouldn’t be expected back is somewhat obvious.
It would be easy to point at Colts in contract years and just take educated guesses about who stays and goes. At no position is this more uncertain than tight end. Dwayne Allen, Coby Fleener and Jack Doyle are all entering contract years. An argument could be made to keep all three, although that seems unlikely, especially if the Colts give quarterback Andrew Luck a lucrative contract extension in the offseason.
There’s only so much money to go around when the star players get paid. Luck has had a rough year with injuries and interceptions, but he’ll be entering a contract year in 2016 and Irsay won’t want his franchise player’s future to be in doubt. Don’t make No. 12 happy before next season and he could decide to play out the year and test free agency. Irsay can’t let that happen.
All that said, the five guys on this list shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Four of them haven’t played well. When that happens, guys play themselves off the roster. The fifth player will be seeking a large contract and it sure seems doubtful the Colts will ante up to keep him.
Cornerback Greg Toler — He hasn’t stayed healthy, missing 11 games in three seasons. When he’s played, opposing quarterbacks have picked on him and he’s given up yards in bunches. Toler counts $5.8 million against the cap in the final year of a three-year, $14.25 million deal. The Colts drafted cornerback D’Joun Smith in the third round and although the injured rookie has yet to prove he can play in the NFL, the team will undoubtedly move on with Toler.
Offensive guard Todd Herremans — Many questioned Grigson bringing in another former Philadelphia Eagles player and giving Herremans $2.25 million for one year. After two ineffective starts in Colts losses, he was benched. The 11th-year pro might try to land with another team, but there’s no way the Colts bring him back.
Outside linebacker Trent Cole — Another former Eagle has been even more of a disappointment. The Colts gave the 11th-year pro with 85.5 career sacks a two-year, $14-million deal with half of that guaranteed. But he hasn’t had a single sack. Because the contract is front-weighted, expect the Colts to cut their losses and take a $1 million cap hit in dead money. Outside linebackers must get after the quarterback in this 3-4 defense. That’s not just sacks but applying constant pressure. Cole has one quarterback hit in nine games. For perspective, outside linebacker Robert Mathis missed the first two games but is tied with defensive end Kendall Langford for the team lead with 10 quarterback hits.
Wide receiver Andre Johnson — Except for a two-touchdown game against his former team, the Houston Texans, the seven-time Pro Bowl selection has looked his age at 34. He failed to have a catch in three games. That had only happened once before in 12 previous seasons. He’s had drops and struggled to get open consistently. Consider that reserve wide receiver Griff Whalen has had five catches in each of the past two games. There are catches to be made, but Johnson isn’t making enough of them. His 24 receptions rank fourth, and are just four more than running back Frank Gore. The Colts gave Johnson a three-year, $21-million deal. Again, it’s front-weighted, so the penalty for cutting him after this season would be $2.5 million in dead money, but that absolves the Colts of paying $11 million more the next two years.
Inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman — It’s not that the fourth-year pro hasn’t made his share of tackles. By NFL.com’s official count, he has 65 in eight games this season. Colts coaches have that number at 96 based on what they see when grading film. The team’s other inside linebacker, D'Qwell Jackson, leads the league with 93 tackles according to the official count, and coaches have him at 121. That’s why DQ is making $5.75 million this season, the same amount he’s scheduled to be paid in 2016 and 2017. That’s more than twice what Freeman was forced to accept in a restricted, one-year deal of $2.356 million this season. Freeman held out for a week during offseason training activities because he wanted a long-term deal. The Colts didn’t budge. And it’s doubtful with the team’s other needs that the Colts will pay him next offseason. It’s possible, but unlikely.
Phillip B. Wilson also can be found on Facebook and Google+.