It’s the calm before the storm as we are about to enter March and the NFL free agent signing period. Teams can start negotiating with free agents on March 7, while actual signings can take place beginning on March 9. Managing the salary cap is one of the most important parameters of free agency for any NFL team, and the man responsible for that task for the Indianapolis Colts is director of football administration Mike Bluem.
SB Nation discusses the state of the Colts’ salary cap, and Bluem’s strategy for maintaining the financial health of the franchise. Bluem explains that limiting “dead money” (which is when a player who is no longer with the team still counts against the cap) is one of the keys to keeping the team on track with player salaries. Bluem has done some very good work that has kept Indianapolis out of salary cap trouble, even though they have had some major misses in free agency in recent seasons.
The Colts’ process for establishing a value for individual free agents begins with an evaluation of how that player fits the team’s roster. A number is then assigned to that player that represents what value he would have to Indianapolis. That salary number is based on the player’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as the current market for comparable players in terms of position and ability.
Once negotiations begin, sometimes other teams will offer a player more money than the Colts felt he was worth to them; at that point, Bluem states that the team must decide if they want to compete for that player’s services at a higher price tag. If the market that is being established is deemed too expensive for what the Colts feel that player can do for them, they will opt to look elsewhere in the hope of finding a player who matches the team’s needs on the field, in addition to falling within a salary range that Indianapolis’ front office feels is acceptable.
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In related Indianapolis Colts news, Pro Football Focus has released their 2017 NFL free agent rankings and Fansided reports on two Colts players who are considered among the best free agents at their respective positions. Mike Adams is ranked No. 10 among all free agent safeties and would have been rated much higher if not for his age (he will turn 36 on March 24) and the concern that his play could drop off significantly this late in his career. Adams still has value to the Colts — he has been productive on the field, and he is also a much-needed veteran presence in the defensive backfield. If he can be retained at a reasonable figure, he may be back in an Indianapolis uniform in 2017.
In a separate piece, Fansided reveals that Pro Football Focus has given the nod to Jack Doyle as the second-best free agent tight end in 2017. Doyle was primarily a special teams player prior to 2016, but his role in the offense was expanded when the Colts allowed tight end Coby Fleener to leave via free agency last season, and Doyle responded in a big way. His raw numbers were solid: 59 receptions for 584 yards and five touchdowns. However, his performance last season was perhaps even more impressive in terms of advanced statistics.
Doyle only dropped three passes all year (on 82 targets), broke at least one tackle on more than 10 percent of his catches, and had the highest percentage of receptions per times targeted (78.7) among all tight ends and wide receivers in the NFL in 2016. Add in the fact that Doyle is a source of inspiration and a beloved teammate in the Colts locker room, and you have the profile of a player who has tremendous value to the franchise and should be re-signed if at all possible.
Pro Bowl punter Pat McAfee recently retired at the age of 29, but the Indianapolis Colts haven’t given up on the possibility that McAfee might reconsider his decision. Rumor has it that several of McAfee’s teammates, as well as owner Jim Irsay, have tried to persuade him to put his retirement plans on hold. According to the Indianapolis Star, the latest player to weigh in on the situation is placekicker Adam Vinatieri. Vinatieri recently appeared on a national radio program and shared that he has tried to convince McAfee to continue his career as a punter for the Colts, stating that he is “begging him to come back.” Will Pat McAfee give in and return to the team in 2017? If he does, you can bet that he will do so with his now-famous comedic flair.
[Featured Image by Bill Kostroun/AP Images]