Colts Who Could Be on the Chopping Block This Offseason
It's no secret that the Indianapolis Colts' defense is long in the tooth. In fact, eight players on the defensive roster are at least 30 years old, four of them being at least 33. And all of them are either starters or on the second-team defense. Outside linebacker Robert Mathis' (35) retirement takes one "senior" off of the books, but the fact still remains that the Colts defense plays old and needs an injection of youth all over the place. Their 30th-ranked unit (382.9 YPG) is also the worst defense the team has had since moving to Indianapolis in 1984.
According to OverTheCap.com, the Colts have approximately $50,799,095 in cap space heading into 2017, and they really only have a handful of their own free agents that they need to prioritize, so they are sitting in a good spot right now. However, if they really want to open up their cap space and get some serious free agents, there are a few cuts that they can make.
The Colts could clear up approximately $24.85 million in cap space over the next two years by cutting starting inside linebacker D'Qwell Jackson, starting defensive end Kendall Langford and second-team defensive lineman Art Jones according to Spotrac.com.
Jackson will be 34 during the 2017 season, but he already began losing a step when he joined the Colts in 2014. During his days with the Cleveland Browns, Jackson excelled in pass coverage but he has been unable to duplicate that success in Indianapolis. It has resulted in him becoming a two-down linebacker, leaving the field in some passing situations. Edwin Jackson (25) and Antonio Morrison (22) began receiving increased playing time this year, and they both played well at times, especially while filling in for D'Qwell Jackson during his suspension in December for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances. The suspension was not D'Qwell Jackson's only questionable offense, however. He had an incident in February 2015 where he punched a pizza delivery worker.
He only has a dead cap hit of $250,000 for 2017 and would become a free agent after next season. Cutting D'Qwell Jackson this offseason would free up $5.5 million. Despite the Colts having some promising, young talent, inside linebacker is still a need for the defense, even with him on the roster.
Langford will be 31 during the 2017 season, and though he was excellent for the Colts in 2015, his 2016 was essentially ruined by a nagging knee injury that started in training camp and wound up landing him on season-ending Injured Reserve. As long as the Colts re-sign Zach Kerr, they'll have Kerr, Henry Anderson, Hassan Ridgeway and TY McGill to primarily carry the load at defensive end/tackle, and that's if they don't draft or sign a key rotational player in Langford's place.
Of these three cuts, Langford would be the toughest call for me. Arguably the best season of his career was in 2015, and he would have potentially built on it this season if not for the knee. Can he get back to it in 2017? What this boils down to is letting the younger, quality players play. If Langford is starting, it means that a player like Ridgeway or Kerr is not. Langford only has a dead cap hit of $750,000 over the remainder of his contract, becoming a free agent in 2019. Cutting him this offseason would free up $7.95 million.
This would probably be many Colts fans' first choice. Jones will be 31 during the 2017 season, and he has ended all three of his seasons with the Colts on IR, not even seeing the field in 2015. This season was Jones' most productive with the Colts, starting all eight games he appeared in and totaling 30 tackles. Still, it was not enough to say that he should be kept on board.
Aside from landing on IR for a groin injury, part of the reason Jones only appeared in eight games was because he was suspended for the first four for violating the NFL's PED policy. He has a hefty dead cap hit of $3.3 million until he becomes a free agent in 2019, but cutting him this offseason would free up $11.4 million. Like Langford, Jones being let go allows players like Anderson, Kerr, Ridgeway and McGill to get more playing time.
Jake Arthur is the AFC South Division Manager, Indianapolis Colts Team Manager, Assistant Director of NFL Content and a Featured Analyst for Pro Football Spot. He is also a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. Follow @JakeArthurPFS on Twitter as well as on h, Google+ and FanCred.
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