No one should be surprised by Colts’ silence amid NFL free agency noise
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The news came in waves.
Kirk Cousins relocated from Washington to Minnesota, leap-frogging Jimmy Garoppolo as the highest-paid player in NFL history. Three years, $86 million. Guaranteed.
Andrew Norwell, not Cleveland’s Kevin Zeitler, will be the league’s richest guard. Five years, $66 million when his move from Carolina to Jacksonville becomes official at 4 p.m. Wednesday.
Allen Robinson to the Chicago Bears, Jimmy Graham to Green Bay, Sam Bradford to Arizona, Sammy Watkins and Anthony Hitchens to Kansas City, Paul Richardson to Washington, Malcolm Butler to the Tennessee Titans.
Donte Moncrief agreeing to take his unfulfilled potential to Jacksonville.
And that noise emanating from the Indianapolis Colts’ West 56th Street complex?
The team’s fan base raised a ruckus on social media, questioning general manager Chris Ballard’s non-activity and reminding him he’s overseeing a 4-12 outfit that has many more positional questions than answers as it attempts to end a three-year playoff drought.
The only response we can offer Indy’s anxious fans: Ballard all but told everyone this was how it was going to be. Free agency would be a supplemental tool to building the roster, not the primary source.
If you weren’t listening, or chose not to listen, that’s on you.
Remember this: You can’t build a sustained winner, one that lasts over time, in free agency.
And this: The one thing we won’t do is pay a mid-level player . . . top-of-the line, high dollars for a guy that is not going to give us that type of production.
And this: At the end of the day, you’ve got to draft and develop and stack drafts – one, two, three drafts – on top of each other.
So while a ton of teams agreed to throw a ton of cash at other teams’ castoffs, Ballard and the Colts sat back and watched.
This was their approach 12 months ago, and clearly is their approach again in Ballard’s second year on the job. Despite glaring needs on the offensive line, at receiver, running back and so many other areas, he’ll be a selective shopper and refrain from overspending for anyone.
The idea is to remain patient and continue the turnover of the roster, all the while focusing on young talent. Ballard has little desire to revisit the “hired gun’’ mentality of the previous regime, even though the roster he inherited 14 months ago necessitated signing 12 veteran free agents.
The NFL’s 2017 season officially opened March 9, and Indy’s immediate response was lower-level deals: punter Jeff Locke (a 2-year, $3.45 million), linebacker John Simon (3 years, $13.5 million) and linebacker Barkevious Mingo (1 year, $2 million). The next day, the Colts signed linebacker Jabaal Sheard to a 3-year, $25.5 million deal.
Nearly a month passed before the Colts made their biggest splash, signing defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins to a 3-year contract worth a maximum of $30 million.
We understand the fan base’s uneasiness. We wouldn’t have minded if Ballard had waded in early to the free-agent pool. A proven receiver. A running back. A proven guard. Somebody.
But people either have faith in Ballard’s approach, or they don’t.
And Ballard’s approach either will get the job done, eventually, or adding a slew of mid-level talent will do nothing more than result in the Colts being a mid-level franchise.
Like it or not, patience is required.