As expected, Adam Vinatieri, other Colts hit NFL’s free agency

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INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA – AUGUST 24: Adam Vinatieri #4 of the Indianapolis Colts looks on before the preseason game against the Chicago Bears at Lucas Oil Stadium on August 24, 2019 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – More than a dozen Indianapolis Colts have hit the open market. Most probably won’t return.

Players with expiring contracts became unrestricted free agents when the NFL’s new league year began Wednesday at 4 p.m. The total across the NFL: 510.

The Colts kept Anthony Castonzo from hitting free agency when they signed the veteran left tackle to a two-year, $33 million extension Sunday

However, 16 others are free to seek employment elsewhere.

Among the 11 veterans with at least four years of experience who were not re-signed before Wednesday’s deadline included placekicker Adam Vinatieri, safety Clayton Geathers, offensive linemen Joe Haeg, Le’Raven Clark and Josh Andrews, tight end Eric Ebron, wide receivers Devin Funchess, Chester Rogers and Dontrelle Inman, defensive end Jabaal Sheard and running back Jonathan Williams.

Five restricted free agents were not tendered one-year qualifying offers: wideout Marcus Johnson, defensive tackle Tevon Coley and defensive backs Briean Boddy-Calhoun, Isaiah Johnson and Kai Nacua.

It’s entirely possible general manager Chris Ballard will re-sign a few of his own once those players weigh their options on the open market. That’s been the case in the past, most notably with Geathers last offseason.

Ballard is committed to maintaining a strong and deep offensive line, so he might be inclined to bringing back Haeg or Clark, or both.

A look at a few of the Colts on the market:

Vinatieri: His NFL future – in Indy or elsewhere – hinges on whether he’s able to make a full recovery from surgery to repair meniscus and patellar tendon issues in his left knee. It contributed to him enduring the worst of his 24 seasons. Vinatieri said he might not know until April or May if he would be able to continue his decorated career.

“Hopefully we’ve got another chapter left,’’ said the NFL’s career scoring leader. “We’ll cross that road when we get there.’’

Chase McLaughlin replaced Vinatieri when the team placed him on IR in December, and he subsequently signed a one-year contract.

Geathers: A Ballard favorite, but are his Indy days over? The 2015 fifth-round draft pick matched a career high last season by playing in 15 games, but his playing time decreased as the season unfolded.

Ebron: The 2018 Pro Bowler endured an injury-plagued ’19 and was placed on IR in late November. We won’t bother elaborating. He won’t return.

Sheard: He was part of Ballard’s first free-agent class in ’17, and more than maxed out his three-year, $25.5 million contract. Sheard started 46 of a possible 50 games, and three of his missed games were due to knee surgery during the ’19 training camp. He was a blue-collar component on defense.

Haeg: His value is in his versatility. Haeg has started 35 games in four seasons, spreading them among four positions. In a pinch, he can play center. It will be interesting to see if another team views him as starter quality, or if he returns to Indy as a critical movable part. He just turned 27.

Clark: He has 12 career starts on his resume, but never stepped on the field in ’19 as the offensive line enjoyed rare health.

Williams: He entered the season with 94 yards on 30 carries in three seasons, then stepped up big when a fractured hand sidelined Marlon Mack. Williams rushed for 116 yards in a week 11 win over Jacksonville and followed that up with 104 yards at Houston.

Funchess: This is an interesting one. Funchess was the Colts’ veteran-wideout-of-choice last offseason when he signed a one-year, $10 million contract. But a broken collarbone in the opener ended his season. Does Ballard want to try it again, probably at a reduced rate? Would Funchess be open to returning at that reduced rate? Does the signing of Philip Rivers increase his interest?

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