Cap room is the biggest determining factor in how a team approaches free agency. I rediscovered this awesome site, Colts Cap, that will provide (roughly) the limits of what the Colts will be able to in the upcoming months.
They put the Colts as being 9.7 million under the cap as of the end of January.
That 9.7 million is to be split between the Colts' 15 free agents, 6+ draft picks and any undrafted rookies or other teams FAs the Colts would like to add.
Dallas Clark, The Colts say they will franchise tag him if they do not get an extension done.
The Franchise tag is a one year contract worth the average salary of the top five players at the same position as the tagged player. A tagged player does not become a free agent while under the tag, regardless of whether they have signed the offer.
The TE tag would cost 4.5 million for the non-exclusive tag (which would allow other teams to negotiate a contract with Clark, but the Colts would have the option of matching that contract and would receive two first round picks as compensation if they chose not to match). The exclusive tag, which the Colts used on Freeney, does not allow teams to negotiate with the tagged player, but is more expensive since it would be calculated using the average of the top 5 salaries for the current year (2008) instead of 2007. There was a difference of one million between the two tags at the TE position last year.
So 4.5 million off the cap for Clark if he's tagged, maybe only 3 to 4 million if they get an extension done.
That leaves between 4.2 and 6.7 million. Ed Johnson and Craphonso Thorpe are exclusive rights free agents, meaning as long as the Colts offer them the minimum salary ~300,000 they can't sign with any other team. Johnson is worth that without a doubt and Thorpe provides depth at receiver and another option for a return man so he'll get the minimum.
Before anyone else is signed the Colts need to save some of that 3.4 to 6.1 million for signing the next wave of awesome Polian draft picks and undrafted rookies. The Colts don't have a first round pick so most of the cost of the draft doesn't apply to them. Here's what the Colts draft picks counted on the cap last year. All picks besides Ugoh were at the end of the round.
1st round Gonzalez, 1.1 million
2nd round (pick #10) Ugoh, $650,000
3rd round, Hughes, $437,500
4th round, Condren $382,000
5th round, Hall $321,687
7th round, Dawson $295,375
Undrafted rookies, FA additons, Practice Squad
So 3.2 Million just for the 2nd through 7th round picks last year and another 4 million in other new players. The FA number should be less this season since the Colts struggled with injuries last season and currently have 61 players on the roster.
Assuming all the FA additions and practice squad are among the 61 on the roster that leaves between $200,000 and 2.9 million for the 12 remaining FAs and undrafted rookies.
Cuts are coming.