To retain, or to not retain? That is the question.
The Colts have 13 Free Agents with some starting/notable rotational roles who could depart the team in 2023. Should the Colts retain them or let them be released into the free agency marketplace?
DE | Yannick Ngakoue
Players with 8+ sacks in each of their 1st 7 seasons…
• Yannick Ngakoue
• Reggie White
• Aaron Donald
• Derrick Thomas
• DeMarcus Ware
Sacks became official in 1982
— NFL Stats (@NFL_Stats) November 29, 2022
Spotrac Market Value: $14.8m AAV
Yannick Ngakoue might be the most expensive expiring contract to decide upon. The 28 year-old mercenary pass rusher has bounced around the league yet has continuously gotten 8+ sacks every year. With that level of consistent sack-making, he is in rare company to start his career.
In his 1st year with the Colts, Ngakoue got 9.5 sacks and 44 pressures in just 15 games. This tied DeForest Buckner’s 2020 season for the 2nd most sacks by a Colts player since 2017, behind only Justin Houston’s 11.5 sack season in 2019. If the Colts can negotiate a deal for $12.5m – $15.5m per year for Yannick, they should do so. Good pass rushers are always valued at a premium, and Yannick is no exception.
WR | Parris Campbell
Spotrac Market Value: $2.5m AAV
The football gods finally showed mercy on Parris Campbell’s health and blessed us with seeing him for 17 games. The former Ohio State Buckeye took that opportunity and ran with it. A 623 yard season with 3 touchdowns while being used as a chain moving weapon out of the slot? Yes please.
#Colts WR: Parris Campbell lead the team with average yards of separation per route at 3.5.
Dude get’s open. pic.twitter.com/S1hYLJBmIg
— Lawrence Owen (@Colts_Law) January 10, 2023
Campbell finished the year 7th amongst WRs in average separation, using his blazing speed and acceleration to be an easy target. Whoever is the Colts QB in 2023 will enjoy having a WR who is always open. With his rookie contract expiring after 3 injury plagued years and one solid one as a WR2, Parris likely won’t demand anything crazy on the open market. However I do think due to the WR cap inflation, we say last year that he will get more than Spotrac’s estimated $2.5m per year. Another 1-2 year deal worth $4m-$6m seems fair for both parties, giving Parris a deserved raise above market value and an opportunity to renegotiate for a new deal soon if he continues to build upon his 2022 performance.
T/G | Matt Pryor
LB | Bobby Okereke
Spotrac Market Value: $2.3m AAV
Bobby Okereke might not always get the headlines of some of his fellow defenders, but he has proven to be a solid starting LB in the NFL the last 2 years. Since the departure of former Colts MLB Anthony Walker Jr., Okereke helmed the middle of the defense well. With a knack for flying to the football, he has racked up 283 tackles (188 solo) and 9 Tackles for loss in the last two years. While he may not have the same near weekly playmaking as fellow Colts LB Shaquille Leonard, he still makes an impact for the team.
Bobby Okereke has been one of the best off ball linebackers in the NFL this season. More evidence: pic.twitter.com/3zoGjKNuui
— Charlie Clifford (@cliffWISH8) November 6, 2022
The Colts do have a pretty crowded LB room at the moment. Leonard will make his return in 2023 after missing nearly all of last season. Zaire Franklin is coming off of a franchise record setting season in tackles. Fellow potential free agent LB EJ Speed flashed some serious potential in his rotational role in 2022. Leonard himself is making nearly $20m a year as an offball LB. If a bidding war breaks out for Okereke or he wants to go to a less crowded LB room he may depart. Spotrac’s Market value feels a bit low for Okereke, as he could command $4m-$6m per year contract. Any more than that and Okereke could be looking more like a roster luxury.
CB | Brandon Facyson
Me when Gus Bradley starts Brandon Facyson again: pic.twitter.com/b62Pr4clu8
— Inside the Horseshoe Podcast (@Horseshoe_Pod) October 18, 2022
S | Rodney McLeod
Spotrac Market Value: $1.7m AAV
Chris Ballard got an absolute steal in Rodney McLeod in free agency last year. The 33 year-old safety set career highs, solidified the back end of the defense, and was a critical leader for the Colts young safety room. With Khari Willis retiring this past year and 21 year-old third round pick Nick Cross needing a year of development, the Colts turned to McLeod as one of their 3 major starting safeties in Gus Bradley’s rotation. And the vet delivered, helping the young secondary gell and communicate, mentoring Julian Blackmon, Cross, and surprise rookie starting Safety Rodney Thomas II, and providing reliable play himself.
Rodney McLeod is considering retirement for the first time in his career.
The Colts safety set career highs for games, tackles and passes defended.
“Old man’s still got it,” he joked.
He’s turning 33. And this season was a lot to handle.https://t.co/dwrGQ2iLJ7
— Nate Atkins (@NateAtkins_) January 17, 2023
Should McLeod wish to continue his career and return for a 12th year, the Colts would be happy to keep him around for another short term deal.
LB | EJ Speed
With such a limited sample size and at a non-premium position, Speed won’t command much on the open market at this point. With Leonard and Franklin returning Speed won’t be guaranteed a much bigger role even if Bobby Okereke leaves. But knowing Leonard’s injury history, the Colts would be wise to retain Speed on an affordable deal for valuable depth.
DE | Tyquan Lewis
Colts injury news: DL Tyquan Lewis is done for the year with a ruptured patella tendon. Same injury as last year, but the other leg.
Just brutal. Lewis had been playing terrific.
— Zak Keefer (@zkeefer) October 31, 2022
While he will be an affordable player due to injury, it is also fair to question his future in the NFL after two major season ending knee injuries in back-to-back years to each one. Can he get back to the same level of athleticism again and stay healthy afterwards? If he is retained it would be on yet another one year prove-it deal, but it may be best to let him go for his long-term health and success.
K | Chase McLaughlin
Spotrac Market Value: $4.1m AAV
Chase McLaughlin might not have been Adam Vinatieri (excluding the 2019 season), but he was a decent kicker in 2022. With 83.3% kicks made, 100% of his extra points between the uprights (didn’t Maher any of them), and making 9/12 from 50+ yards away. Also credit where credit is due: Chase came in and solidified a roster hole after Week 1. Kickoffs didn’t go careening out of bounds consistently with Chase handling them, and the Colts were able to expand their kicking range.
His performance wasn’t overwhelming, but solid enough to make him the likely favorite for the Colts 2023 kicking job. The team likely will also bring in some camp legs for competition and see if anyone can be an upgrade, but for now he should earn a short term deal for the Colts again.
P | Matt Haack
The Colts will likely look elsewhere for a new punter to compete with Rigoberto Sanchez coming off an Achilles injury.
DE | Ben Banogu
Unlike his fellow 2019 draftmates Okereke, Speed, and Campbell, Ben Banogu failed to earn a bigger role in 2022. Some had hoped new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley and his affinity for Wide 9 DEs off the edge would give Banogu an opportunity to carve out a larger snap count. But once again, Banogu failed to get meaningful playing time, with only 2 games playing over 20% of the defensive snaps.
Ben Banogu cross-chop for a near sack yesterday. Somebody has been watching Yannick Ngakoue in practice 👀 pic.twitter.com/YU4WeuBOWx
— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) August 14, 2022
Banogu likely will seek employment elsewhere. The highly athletic DE out of TCU did flash in the preseason with a lot of pressure, but when he played against starting NFL talent, he never seemed to get into a groove. Hopefully he will have a better opportunity for playing time and success in his next NFL stop.
WR | Ashton Dulin
Ashton Dulin quietly had a career best year as a WR. Starting the first two games of the season with 9 catches for 125 yards, he cooled down afterwards but still managed to eclipse 200 receiving yards for the first time in his career. Add to that his role as one of the Colts top 2 kick returners (along with Dallis Flowers) and his role as a strong special teams ace, Dulin likely will be brought back for a small deal as a useful back of the roster player.
OT | Dennis Kelly
— ColtureShock 🏈🐎 (@Coltureshock_) October 19, 2022
The next two weeks however, the wheels fell off for the former Boilermaker, allowing 11 pressures and being returned to the bench. The only other game he saw action was half of Week 13 at Right Tackle, and had a fair share of struggles protecting the QB again. With age (33), injuries, and inconsistent play, it is likely the Colts look elsewhere to add depth to their Tackle positions.