Recently, the Football Outsiders published a list of 10 players who should be cut in this uncapped year so as to free their teams from the signing bonus money that must be accounted for. The idea is that the player could then immediately be resigned by the team, thus wiping out the future impact of past bonuses. Bob Sanders made that list for the Colts.
Bob Sanders, S, Indianapolis Colts
No one doubts Sanders' incredible talent, but since he signed a $37.75 million contract extension in December 2007, he has played in four of a possible 32 regular-season games. More than $7.3 million in bonuses remain on the Colts' cap over the next three years; the team is better off cutting Sanders and re-signing him to a new, cap-friendly deal.
The problem with this plan is that the cut player would be a free agent, able to sign with any team. If Bob Sanders was suddenly a free agent, I guarantee you he would get a deal for more than the $2.2 million the Colts are slated to pay him this year. Teams have money to spend, but there aren't enough good players to spend it on. That doesn't mean the point of the article is wrong, just the application.
Personally, I believe the CBA uncertainty will last past this season and into the next league calendar year. The Colts have several players who could well be on the chopping block next year. Anyone due a big roster bonus or with a lot of unaccounted for bonus money could potentially be released after the season in order clean up the cap situation assuming the cap ever comes back (which is a HUGE assumption). Unless a new CBA miraculously materializes before next March, the Colts will still be able to employ "the wipe the slate clean" strategy. There's no rush to employ it right now. Why not wait until the last possible minute to try this tactic?
The following Colts could be candidates for this process. They are all big names and could be resigned immediately if the team could work out a deal with them. Normally, a team has some incentive to keep a player because cutting them can occasionally be more expensive cap wise than keeping them. That isn't the case as long as there is no cap, however. Remember, the main reason a player qualifies for this list is to clear out his already paid, but unaccounted for bonus money.
1. Bob Sanders. After this year, the Zombie will still have about $4-5 million in bonus money unaccounted for. His salary jumps to $5 million next year and $7 million the year after that. Now, if Bob plays all year and is healthy, he is 100% absolutely worth that money. If he doesn't play, he's gone come next February.
2. Dwight Freeney-Surprised? Don't be. The Colts have to account for $10 million in bonus money paid him. His salary hits $11 million in 2011, and would be a cap hit of $16 million. No one loves Freeney more than me, but he's at that magic age. If he shows any signs of slippage, the Colts cannot afford to miss the chance to get out from under his deal.
3. Dallas Clark-Again, don't be shocked to see his name. He still has just shy of $6 million of bonus money to be accounted for. Tight ends tend to decline right about the age that Clark is now hitting. If he has an injury plagued 2010, the Colts will have to consider getting out from under his contract.
4. Kelvin Hayden-Nearly $9 million in unaccounted for bonuses, and a huge salary jump. Corners are fungible in the Colts system, and while I like Hayden, 2009 was not his finest season. He needs to stay healthy or else.
5. Gary Brackett-He's on the list only because I haven't seen how his contract breaks down. I assume it would be 'hypothetical cap friendly' for two to three years, but just in case it isn't, the Colts could part ways. It's extremely unlikely, however, because the Colts paid him $12 million in bonus money. If they wanted him for just one year, they could have franchised him for $9 million. Still, all 30 year old linebackers have to be aware of getting axed.
By the way, the following Colts will be free agents next year. For now I'm assuming there won't be a CBA and the same rules as this year would apply.
Adam Vinatieri (UFA), Joseph Addai (RFA-only 5 years of service), Ugoh (RFA)
I assume that Vinatieri will be gone. Ugoh will probably not be tendered unless he has a great year. Addai is trickier. I would guess the Colts wouldn't mind having him back at a reasonable one year tender, but would REALLY love to get a draft pick for him.
Other free agents could include all the guys who are currently RFAs depending on what deals they eventually sign.