After a strong season in 2020, what is the salary cap situation for the Indianapolis Colts entering the 2021 NFL league year? Let’s take a look at the Colts’ salary cap situation, as well as which players they could release, restructure, or extend to create additional salary cap space in 2021.
The Colts project to be around $50 million under the salary cap in 2021
As of March 2, the 2021 salary cap projects to be around $185 million. The Colts will carry over $8.3 million in cap space to the 2021 season. Therefore, the Colts’ current salary cap projects to be $193.3 million.
As it stands, the Colts have just over $142.7 million in commitments to their top 51 highest-paid players, with an additional $300,000 in dead money. As such, the Colts are currently around $50.3 million under the salary cap heading into 2021.
To view the most up-to-date numbers for the Indianapolis Colts’ salary cap space, check out our team by team 2021 salary cap space article, which is updated daily.
Indianapolis has a handful of potential options for releasing players
With plenty of salary cap space heading into the 2021 NFL league year, there is no urgency for the Colts to open up more cap space. However, they have a handful of options if they feel that cap space could be better spent elsewhere.
Could the Colts consider making changes to their offensive line?
Given the performance of the Colts’ offensive line, it seems unlikely they would consider a serious revamp of the group. The retirement of left tackle Anthony Castonzo is already a consideration, so further wholesale changes might be a mistake.
Braden Smith, the Colts’ right tackle, is entering the final year of his rookie deal and will count $3.3 million against the Colts’ salary cap in 2021. Releasing him could save $2.4 million, but after playing over 85 percent of the snaps in 2020, doing so would likely not be worth the gain in cap space.
Right guard Mark Glowinski is entering the final year of his contract in Indianapolis. He is due to count $7.6 million against the Colts’ salary cap in 2021. His release would open up $6.2 million, leaving just $1.4 million in dead money. However, Glowinski played every offensive snap in the past two seasons, meaning his experience would be a big loss with a new QB under center.
Could Jack Doyle be on his way out of Indianapolis?
The Colts are already potentially losing both Trey Burton and Mo Alie-Cox as free agents. Therefore, also moving on from Jack Doyle would mean a complete shift at the tight end position in 2021.
However, Doyle’s production has been mixed during his career. He has not topped 50 receptions in any of the last three seasons. Last season, in particular, he had just 23 receptions for 251 yards and 3 touchdowns. Releasing him could see the Colts save $4.4 million in salary cap space in 2021.
Kenny Moore is likely to stay after a solid 2020 season
Defensively, Kenny Moore offers the most savings in terms of salary cap space for the Colts in 2021. While this may be true, he did play over 92 percent of the snaps on defense last season.
In 2020, Moore racked up 68 solo tackles, 2 sacks, 4 tackles for loss, 3 QB hits, 4 interceptions, and forced a fumble. He is an all-around playmaker for the Colts, and the $6.4 million potential cap savings is likely not worth losing the talent he possesses.
The Colts have players they can extend or restructure to create cap space in 2021
The plentiful salary cap space the Colts have in 2021 means they do not need to make rash moves. However, they do have decisions to make on some players in terms of extensions. Therefore, the Colts could consider using these extensions to create cap space in 2021.
The Colts have several decisions on the offensive line
As mentioned above, both Glowinski and Smith are in the final year of their respective contracts. Therefore, the Colts could consider extensions for both. Doing so could see the Colts open $3.7 million and $1.2 million in salary cap space in 2021 for Glowinski and Smith, respectively.
The other offensive lineman the Colts must decide on is their left guard, Quenton Nelson. Nelson is considered one of the best offensive linemen in the league right now and is entering the fourth year of his rookie deal.
The Colts could pick up his fifth-year option, which would cost approximately $14.5 million in 2022. Nelson is due to count $7.8 million against the salary cap for the Colts in 2021, of which they could save $2.4 million as part of an extension if they so desire.
The Colts have other players from the 2018 NFL Draft to consider for contract extensions
The 2018 NFL Draft was a good one for the Indianapolis Colts. Nelson has developed into a star, as has second-round selection Darius Leonard. Leonard is due to count $4.3 million against the Colts’ salary cap in 2021. However, an extension is likely in the works for the 2018 Defensive Rookie of the Year. The Colts could feasibly use that extension to create around $2 million in salary cap space in 2021.
Of the other three second-round selections they had that year, Smith is also an extension candidate, as discussed above. While Kemoko Turay and Tyquan Lewis likely won’t be prioritized for an extension, running back Nyheim Hines could be a possibility.
Hines totaled 862 yards and 7 touchdowns for the Colts in 2020. He could be a perfect complement to Jonathan Taylor over the next couple of years. If the Colts can make an extension work, they could save around $1 million in cap space in 2021.
The Colts do not need to restructure deals out of desperation but have options if they wanted to
The Colts have three players they could consider restructuring this offseason. QB Carson Wentz will count $25.4 million against the Colts’ salary cap in 2021. They could move around $18.3 million of that into the future. Defensive lineman DeForest Buckner is due to count for $17 million, with $12 million of that able to be moved into future years.
Center Ryan Kelly has a fascinating contract. He is set to count $14.7 million against the Colts’ salary cap in 2021. However, those numbers drop to $7.5 million, $10.1 million, and $12.4 million, over the next three years, respectively. Therefore, the Colts could look to move as much as $10.2 million of that 2021 salary cap number into the future with relative ease.
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