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Failed drafts necessitate Colts shopping on NFL free agent market

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Colts GM Chris Ballard

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – One of the NFL’s most hyped and anticipated personnel phases looms: veteran free agency.

It provides needy teams an opportunity to address deficiencies, and players a shot at hitting the lottery. It involves high-profile names, but too often heavy investments that fail to produce the expected yield.

It’s not Chris Ballard’s preferred method of returning the Indianapolis Colts to relevancy.

“You can’t build a sustained winner, one that lasts over time, in free agency,’’ he said.

The foundation of a championship roster, he added, must be the draft.

When the NFL’s free-agent market opens next Wednesday – teams are allowed to talk with pending free agents beginning Monday – Ballard needs to be one of the selective shoppers in large part because of the previous regime’s inability to build the roster through the draft.

It’s not ideal, especially considering Ballard’s personnel-building preferences. But’s it’s necessary, and it’s worth remembering the Colts have more than $70 million in cap space.

Seven draft picks, including the third overall, aren’t enough to fix the Colts’ issues: pass rusher, offensive line, wide receiver, cornerback, inside linebacker, running back, tight end.

At the risk of piling on Ryan Grigson and Chuck Pagano, the Colts find themselves with so many deficiencies because of too many failed drafts.

From 2012-15, the Colts had 30 picks. Only five players remain under contract for 2018: Andrew Luck, T.Y. Hilton, Henry Anderson, Clayton Geathers and Denzelle Good. If guard Jack Mewhort (round 2, ’14) and wideout Donte Moncrief (round 3, ’14) aren’t re-signed – we give Mewhort a 50-50 shot; Moncrief is the longest of long shots – Indy will have zero players from the 2013-14 drafts.


Those two drafts could have – should have – delivered core players to the roster. They should have delivered the pass rusher Bjoern Werner (round 1, ’13), a complement to Hilton (Moncrief) and a few offensive line mainstays (Mewhort, Hugh Thornton and Khaled Holmes). Remember when Grigson touted Holmes as Indy’s “center of the future?’’

Compounding matters is the 2015 draft. First-round wideout Phillip Dorsett was supposed to be another big-play option for the offense. Second-round cornerback D’Joun Smith addressed a needy secondary. Dorsett is a New England Patriot. Smith is a street free agent who has appeared in five games in three seasons.

And let’s not forget the ’16 draft. We’re still waiting for second-round safety T.J. Green to do something.

Every team endures misguided decisions on draft day. As adept as Bill Polian was, he’s also got Tony Ugoh and Jerry Hughes on his resume.

But extended failure – possibly going 0-for-2013-14 is ridiculous – forces a team to look for the quick fix. And that’s veteran free agency.

And that’s an option Chris Ballard must maximize.

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