As NFL trade deadline nears, will Colts beat the clock?

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - SEPTEMBER 24: T.Y. Hilton #13 of the Indianapolis Colts runs for a touchdown after a catch against the Cleveland Browns during the first half at Lucas Oil Stadium on September 24, 2017 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Tick, tick, tick.

That’s the sound of the NFL’s trade deadline nearing. The countdown ends 4 p.m. Tuesday, and no one should be surprised if Chris Ballard is at least working the phones – making calls and answering them – as he looks to reinforce the Indianapolis Colts’ deficient roster and looks ahead to 2018.

The first-year general manager often has spoken how constructing a roster is a 24/7/365 venture. You turn over every rock, consider every possibility, explore all options.

In this case, that would include addition by subtraction. Part with a player, acquire a draft pick, or picks depending upon the player.

Spend a few minutes of Twitter and you’ve seen the speculation, based on anonymous league sources. There are a couple of teams interested in veteran cornerback Vontae Davis, and Ballard could be convinced to move wide receiver T.Y. Hilton. Might someone be willing to swing a deal for Frank Gore? He’s the league’s oldest running back at 34, but proved in Sunday’s loss to Cincinnati he’s still a viable player.

Maybe Ballard is a seller in the next 24 hours. He certainly isn’t averse to wheeling and dealing. One of his first moves as GM in March was shipping veteran tight end Dwayne Allen to New England. In September, he sent 2015 first-round draft pick Phillip Dorsett to the Patriots for quarterback Jacoby Brissett.

Until Tuesday’s trade deadline passes, speculation will swirl and the players in question will wait. That’s their only option.

Consider Hilton’s brief give-and-take with the media Monday.

Is it difficult to block out the trade talk and focus on the task at hand?

“You just control what you can control,’’ he said.

Do you like being in Indy?

“I love it,’’ he replied.

Gore was more accommodating, but his message was the same.

Do you allow yourself to think about the trade deadline?

“I don’t,’’ Gore said. “I’m here. I’m a Colts. If (a trade) happens, I can’t control that. But I’m a Colts. I’m here to fight with my teammates to the end.’’

Davis seems most at risk of having to deal with relocation issues Tuesday evening, but his demeanor made it clear he’s not dwelling on the possibility. Remember, it was an August 2012 trade with the Miami Dolphins that delivered him to Indy.

“I’ve been traded before. I’ve been through the process,’’ Davis said. “Now if I had never been traded, then that’s a different story. It would be a different experience for me. But I’ve experienced it before.

“I don’t have (any) control over what happens. It’s not my decision.’’

Does he anticipate still being a Colt Wednesday?

“Wednesday is not here yet,’’ Davis said with a smile. “Like I said, I’ve been traded before so I know what to expect. It’s a business.’’

He has no interest in being part of any upcoming business transaction.

“Man, this is where my career blossomed,’’ Davis said. “Indy always will (have) a special place in my heart. I love Indianapolis, love the fans.

“I had my best years here. This is a special place. I’ll always be a Colts fan.’’

A capsule look at the Colts’ three most likely trade commodities:

VONTAE DAVIS

  • Age: 29
  • Resume: 120 games, 112 starts in 9 seasons. Selected to the Pro Bowl in 2014, 2015. Twenty-two career interceptions.
  • Reason trade might occur: Davis is in the final year of his four-year, $36 million contract and it’s hard to imagine Ballard re-investing in a cornerback who turns 30 in May. Although Davis is in the midst of a lackluster season, he can be a top-level corner for a contender.
  • Reason trade might not occur: Whichever team acquires Davis assumes the final portion of his ’17 base salary. That’s $4.76 million for what amounts to an eight-game rental.

T.Y. HILTON

  • Age: 27.
  • Resume: 86 games, 65 starts in 6 seasons. Three-time Pro Bowl selection (2014-16). Led NFL in receiving yards in 2016 (1,448). Joined Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne as only players in team history with four consecutive 1,000-yard seasons.
  • Reason trade might occur: Hilton’s age and game-breaking skills would command the most in return. Maybe a second pick? Most assuredly a third-rounder.
  • Reason trade probably won’t occur: We doubt Ballard views Hilton as a locker room leader – those players don’t point fingers at other areas of the team – but Hilton is one of the proving stars on a roster lacking difference-making. It’s easy to get rid of him, but would be much tougher to replace him considering all of the other areas that must be addressed in the offseason. In terms of his contract, a trade partner would take on the final 31Ž2 years of Hilton’s five-year, $65 million contract. That means about $4.2 million for the remainder of this season and bases of $11 million in ’18, $13 million in ’19 and $14 million in ’20.

FRANK GORE

  • Age: 34
  • Resume: Ranks 7th in NFL history with 13,469 yards and 9th with 17,015 total yards from scrimmage. Has started 174 games during 13-year career, and made 100th consecutive start Sunday in Cincinnati. Owns NFL record with 11 consecutive seasons with at least 1,200 yards from scrimmage. One of five players to rush for at least 1,000 yards in 10 seasons. The others are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame: Emmitt Smith, Curtis Martin, Walter Payton and Barry Sanders.
  • Reason trade might occur: A contender might need a grind-it-out back. Gore reinforced he’s still a viable option against the Bengals, pounding away 16 times for 82 yards (5.1 yards per carry). If Ballard is in a charitable mood, he would trade Gore to a contender for whatever he could get. Future Hall of Famers shouldn’t have to endure this mess.
  • Reason a trade probably won’t occur: Gore is 34 and it’s hard to imagine a team giving up much to acquire him.

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