Cuts Will Be Coming for Colts

Colts fans have been anxiously awaiting information about Indianapolis Colts draft pick signings. But they should also be ready for news on a number of players who will learn that they need not report to camp.

This Sunday the Indianapolis Colts assemble their team in Terre Haute to kick off their 2006 training camp. And while fans are nervously wondering how many of the seven draft picks will be in camp on time, they should also be wondering which players will be told they need not show up.

The offseason roster limit is 80 players, and right now the Colts have 92 after you include Thursday's addition of wide receiver Levon Thomas. ColtPower broke that news story Thursday morning.

You might be wondering how they are getting away with having 92 players if the limit is 80. Well, first of all, the seven draft picks don't count until they sign their contracts. So that means they truly have 85 players signed to their roster as far as the league office is concerned.

However, six of those players don't count against the roster limit. Five of them -- LB Nick Hannah, DL Justin Brown, C Mike Johnson, TE Joey Hawkins, and CB Eric Hill -- were all assigned to NFL Europe, so they are exempt from being included in the roster count until the final roster cuts before the start of the regular season. Ironically, Hawkins was cut by his NFL Europe team before the start of the season, but he should still get the benefit of the exemption.

Additionally, the NFL can award a Bonus Exemption to a team if they provided good quality players to NFL Europe. When a team qualifies for a Bonus Exemption, they usually place it on a young player that they know for certain will survive training camp so that he doesn't count against the roster total the entire summer. The Colts opted to place this exemption on last year's top pick, cornerback Marlin Jackson.

So when you do the math, the Colts right now have 79 players signed to their roster. That's all well and good for today, but it also means that as you see draft picks signed over the next few days, six current players will have to be dropped from the roster either through cuts or being put on the Physically Unable to Perform list.

Who might be a pre-camp casualty? Well, as much as I hate projecting the release of any player, it's part of the NFL roster process that some have to be trimmed. And barring any real surprises, here are a few that may be under consideration by Colts president Bill Polian and head coach Tony Dungy...

Wide receivers
The Colts have 14 wide receivers on the roster at the moment. Possible cuts could include Purdue's Brian Hare, Tulsa's Ashlan Davis or in a surprise cut, even John Standeford. Standeford doesn't have any practice squad eligibility left, nor does he offer returns specialist options like some of the younger receivers such as Dan Sheldon, Gerran Walker, or Jamie Goodwin. I think it's a stretch that they would let him go, but if the Colts don't think he'll make the final 53 this year, they'd be doing him a favor to release him now in hopes of catching on in another camp.

Offensive Line
With some uncertainty regarding whether or not Makoa Freitas' foot injury is fully healed, the Colts could put him on the PUP list to open a spot temporarily while they take a look at the rookies. However, it wouldn't be a surprise to see the Colts release either undrafted rookie Russ Tanner or Albert Bimper since they currently have more than six players on the roster capable of stepping in and handling the center duties.

Quarterback
The Colts are heading into camp with five quarterbacks on the roster after the addition of Shaun King. UCLA quarterback David Koral was already cut once and was brought back. He could be the odd man out again.

Defensive Line
If the Colts trim here, it will most likely be one of their two undrafted free agents -- Tom Johnson or Marcus West. Johnson was the only defensive lineman signed out of the initial undrafted free agents, West came later. So he's more likely the bubble guy if the Colts look to cut one from this group.

Linebackers
The Colts have 13 on the roster right now, so this is another area where you could see one spot reduced. Indiana's Kyle Killion would be the most likely candidate, but another one who is near the bottom of the depth chart is Notre Dame's Brandon Hoyte.

Secondary
While the Colts have sixteen spots allocated right now to the secondary, most of these guys have value at minimum as a special teams player. If you had to pick one that's on the bubble though, it's likely Miami's Tanard Davis, who didn't see a ton of playing time in his senior year. His atraction is his speed, but the Colts have so many players in camp this year with returns talent that he might be one who doesn't make it to camp.


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