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USA Today Sports Media Group
Cody Felger

Ranking Colts’ pending free agents by importance

The Indianapolis Colts have 14 players set to be unrestricted free agents this offseason with a number of players from that list who were major contributors for the team in 2023.

The Colts, despite having the fifth most cap space in the NFL (roughly $58.9 million) according to Over The Cap, will have to make some potentially tough decisions in regard to how they allocate those funds this offseason

Here, we are ranking these 14 players by their importance to retain for general manager Chris Ballard and Indianapolis in 2024.


DE Genard Avery

AP Photo/Matt Slocum

Avery was brought to Indianapolis in 2023 after playing in Tampa Bay in 2022. Unfortunately for Avery, his season ended before it bgan as he was place on injured reserve in August.

Even if he was healthy, the 28-year old didn’t figure to have a role with Indianapolis in 2023 on their defensive line.

With seemingly no fit on this team, Avery is not a relevant part of this roster.

WR Isaiah McKenzie

Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

McKenzie came to Indianapolis on a one-year deal after multiple seasons in Buffalo. While he primarily handled the punt returns for Indianapolis, McKenzie proved to be a non-factor on offense, recording 82 yards on 11 catches.

McKenzie being a non-factor on offense in addition to being suspended late in the 2023 season for conduct detrimental to the team points to McKenzie not returning to Indianapolis in 2024.

It is very likely that Indianapolis will look to add more help at receiver this offseason and McKenzie doesn’t appear to have much of a future in Indianapolis.

G Danny Pinter

(AP Photo/Zach Bolinger)

Pinter was initially drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in the fifth round of the 2020 NFL Draft out of Ball State.

In his first three seasons, Pinter played in 46 games, logging seven starts. Pinter served an important role as the primary backup center to Ryan Kelly.

In 2023, Pinter suffered a major injury in the final preseason game as he broke his leg against the Philadelphia Eagles.

While Pinter has definitely served a nice role on this offensive line in the past, the emergence of Wesley French as the primary backup center in 2023 lowers the need for Indianapolis to unquestionably bring Pinter back in 2024.

DE Jacob Martin

Syndication: The Indianapolis Star

Martin came into Indianapolis after bouncing around the league in the first four seasons of his career.

While Martin didn’t see the field a ton in 2023, he certainly made the most of it. Despite playing in only 15.8% of the defensive snaps, Martin recorded five tackles, one tackle for loss and two sacks.

While Martin isn’t a huge priority to bring back, he did show decent production off the bench for Indianapolis in 2023 when given the opportunity.

DT Taven Bryan

(AP Photo/Tyler Kaufman)

The Indianapolis Colts brought in the former first round pick on a one-year deal, hoping that he would provide some quality minutes off the bench.

However, Bryan did not provide quality play when given the opportunity and proved largely to be disappointing.

I don’t expect Bryan to be back with Indianapolis in 2024 and think the Colts should consider other options moving forward.

S Ronnie Harrison

Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Harrison originally signed to Indianapolis’ practice squad in August, but was elevated to the active roster on Nov. 21 following the release of Shaq Leonard.

Harrison responded with 20 tackles, one tackle for loss, two passes defensed and two interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown.

Harrsion originally came in as a converted linebacker but shifted back into the strong safety position after Julian Blackmon was placed on injured reserve late in the season.

While there is no starting position currently for Harrison, he did provide a spark for the defense as well as has position flexibility if needed.

Indianapolis may need to consider re-signing the former third-round pick out of Alabama as he could provide quality depth off the bench.

RB Zack Moss

(Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

When the Indianapolis Colts originally received Zack Moss as a part of the Nyheim Hines trade, he was an afterthought.

However, with Jonathan Taylor unavailable at the end of the 2022 season and the beginning of the 2023 one as well, Moss quickly emerged as the lead back in Indianapolis.

In the 14 games (eight starts) played in 2023, Moss rushed for 793 yards and five touchdowns on 183 carries and proved to be a very capable runner even once Taylor returned to the starting lineup.

While the 26-year-old running back may be looking for a bigger payday and opportunity, there is no doubt that he and Taylor boast a very formidable tandem when both healthy.

While the running back position is fairly low in value compared to others in the modern-day NFL, bringing back a player who has routinely earned a role in Indianapolis over the last year and a half would be a smart idea.

DE Tyquan Lewis

(Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

After two years of dealing with major injuries, Lewis finally rewarded the team for offering him an opportunity to show that he could still be a solid contributor for them.

Lewis finished with 25 tackles, nine tackles for loss and tied a career-high with four sacks while playing in all the regular season games, something that he hasn’t done since 2020. On top of that, Lewis played in the most snaps (436) of his career.

Despite only playing in 37% of the defensive snaps, Lewis was still very productive for the opportunities he was given.

Lewis is a player who has been with Indianapolis his entire career and the Colts should make a concerted effort to keep him around moving forward.

P Rigoberto Sanchez

Syndication: The Indianapolis Star

Since beginning his NFL with the Indianapolis Colts in 2017, Rigoberto Sanchez has dealt with fair share of adversity. In 2020, Sanchez had to undergo cancer surgery as well as surgery to fix a torn Achilles in 2022.

While Sanchez initially started the 2023 season fairly slow, he began to show signs of his former self throughout the course of the season. Sanchez averaged 48.3 yards per punt attempt during the 2023 campaign, the highest of his career. In addition, Sanchez guided 21 of his 68 punts inside the 20-yard line.

Now fully healed heading into 2024, Sanchez should be a no-brainer signing for Indianapolis.

QB Gardner Minshew

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Is Gardner Minshew the perfect quarterback? No.

Is he a valuable backup to have? Yes.

After Anthony Richardson went down with injury, Minshew helped guide Indianapolis to a 9-8 record a game out from a playoff berth and/or a division title.

With the uncertainty of whether Anthony Richardson can remain healthy for a full season, retaining Minshew is a good idea.

The biggest question with Minshew will ultimately come down to the price and his demand amongst the quarterback-needy teams. If the price is fair, bringing back Minshew is a wise investment for an insurance policy at quarterback.

S Julian Blackmon

(Photo by Alex Grimm/Getty Images)

After playing the free safety position for the first three years of his career, Blackmon made the transition to strong safety in 2023.

The result? He put up career numbers with 88 tackles, five tackles for loss, eight passes defended and four interceptions.

Blackmon provided stability and a veteran presence for the young Indianapolis safety room and proved that he deserves consideration for being brought back to the organization that drafted him in 2020.

The biggest debate for Chris Ballard and company will be the injuries for Blackmon as he has missed 17 games in his first four seasons as a pro. There is no question that he is an effective player when on the field, however, he has never played a full NFL season.

It will be interesting to see what Indianapolis ultimately decides with the Utah product.

DT Grover Stewart

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

There is no question how valuable Stewart is to the Colts.

In the six games that missed due to suspension, the Indianapolis allowed 4.7 yards per carry and 153 rushing yards per game as opposed to just 3.7 yards per carry and 107.9 yards per game when Stewart was on the field.

The impact that Stewart had on the run defense is one that should not be ignored. When Stewart is on the field, the defensive line for Indianapolis is better.

While Stewart’s age (30) is what keeps him at only number three, his impact with Indianapolis is unquestionable and should undoubtedly be brought back for the foreseeable future.

CB Kenny Moore II

(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

There is no doubt that one of the most disappointing players in 2022 for the Colts was Moore. He dealt with injuries, disagreements with the defensive staff and all-around poor play.

However, 2023 was a different story for the 28-year-old. Moore finished with 93 tackles, eight tackles for loss, a sack and a half, six passes defended and three interceptions, two of which were taken back for a score, in 16 games. Moore was also graded out as one of the best slot corners in football, according to Pro Football Focus.

Like Blackmon, Moore was consistent in a young and inconsistent cornerback room in 2023.

There is little doubt that Moore will be back with Indianapolis on a multi-year extension and will continue to mentor the young cornerbacks currently on the roster.

WR Michael Pittman Jr.

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

There is not a doubt in my mind that Michael Pittman Jr. is the most important player to re-sign for the Colts in 2024.

Pittman set career highs in virtually every category logging 109 catches for 1,152 yards and four receiving touchdowns.

Since being drafted in 2020, Pittman has been a model of consistency despite the carousel of quarterbacks that he’s had throwing him the football over the last four years.

Pittman’s value was so evident in 2024 and the fact that he’s only 26 years old means that Indianapolis must prioritize him first and foremost this offseason.

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