INDIANAPOLIS – It starts with understanding where you are as an organization and how you got there.

“You have to accept who you are,’’ Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard said last week. “We’re a 9-8 football team. That’s who we are.”

“I put that team together and that falls on my shoulders. We won’t overreact. I’ve got to let the poison get out and it’s not out yet, and then we’ll make a thorough evaluation of everything we’re doing.’’

Only then – only after the emotion and utter exasperation of the late-season collapse subsides – will Ballard and his personnel staff be in position to embrace the solid parts of their roster and understand which areas must be restocked or at the very least tweaked.

“It’s not like we’ve got to start over here,’’ Ballard said. “I mean, we’ve got a lot of good football players on both sides of the ball, and a lot of them coming back.’’

The Colts had an NFL-high seven Pro Bowl selections: running back Jonathan Taylor, guard Quenton Nelson, center Ryan Kelly, defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, linebacker Darius Leonard, cornerback Kenny Moore II and long snapper Luke Rhodes.

They had three first-team All-Pros (Taylor, Leonard and Rhodes) and two second-team selections (Nelson and Ashton Dulin), which was tied for the most in the league.

But they finished 9-8 and out of the playoffs after sitting at 9-6 with two games remaining.

There’s clearly work to do.

One of the first orders of business for Ballard and his staff is determining which of their own to retain. And it’s a long list with more than two dozen players eligible for free agency.

The list includes 12 players who started at least six games last season and eight – four on offense, four on defense – who started the season-ending debacle at Jacksonville.

It’s reactionary to insist the roster wasn’t nearly good enough considering the unacceptable finish against the Las Vegas Raiders and Jaguars. But the fact remains the roster was more than good enough to have the franchise on the verge of its third playoff appearance in four seasons.

“The cupboard’s not bare,’’ Ballard insisted.

But the first things first, and that’s assessing the Colts’ long list of free-agents-to-be:

WR T.Y. Hilton

  • Experience: 10 years.
  • Age: 32.
  • Games/starts: 143/121.
  • Career: Tied with Raymond Barry for 3rd in franchise history with 631 receptions and 3rd behind Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne with 9,691 yards; 4th with 53 receiving TDs. Four-time Pro Bowl selection and a future Ring of Honor addition.
  • 2021 salary cap hit: $6.45 million
  • Comment: It’s been a fun ride, but all signs point toward Hilton yielding to Father Time and retiring. He’s “only’’ 32, but injuries the past three seasons have limited him to 35 games, 124 receptions and 1,594 yards. To his credit, Hilton generated 13 TDs during that stretch.

CB Xavier Rhodes

  • Experience: 9 years.
  • Age: 31.
  • Games/starts: 133/126 (29/29 with Colts).
  • Career: Has 13 interceptions and 92 passes defended in his career. Three-time Pro Bowl selection and first-team All-Pro in 2017.
  • 2021 salary cap hit: $5.2 million.
  • Comment: The Colts got a decent return on their investment – roughly $8.5 million over the past two seasons – but it’s probably time to move on.

G Mark Glowinski

  • Experience: 7 years.
  • Age: 29.
  • Games/starts: 95/74.
  • 2021 salary cap hit: $7.5 million.
  • Comment: This will be an interesting decision for Ballard. Danny Pinter is in the pipeline as an interior prospect, but the team is committed to having quality depth – nine or 10 players deep. If Glowinski’s cost to re-sign is reasonable, I’d think long and hard about it. He’s been “the other guy’’ on the high-profile offensive line, but he’s also been pretty darned reliable.

WR Zach Pascal

Experience: 4 years.
Age: 26.
Games/starts: 64/44.
Career: He’s been a blue-collar complement since being claimed off waivers from Tennessee in June 2018 with 150 receptions, 1,888 yards and 15 TDs. Pascal has been a physical presence as a blocker in the run game and provided steady special teams contributions.
2021 salary cap hit: $3.385 million (restricted tender)
Comment: Ballard was high on Pascal with his post-season comments, but how he handles him in free agency will speak volumes on the level of that commitment. After posting consecutive seasons with 40-plus receptions and 600-plus yards in 2019-20, Pascal was nearly invisible during the second half of the season. In his final seven games, he managed just 8 receptions for 65 yards.

TE Mo Alie-Cox

  • Experience: 4 years.
  • Age: 28.
  • Games/starts: 57/16.
  • Career: The former VCU hoops standout has developed into a solid NFL tight end with 70 receptions, 936 yards and 8 TDs.
  • 2021 salary cap hit: $3.384 million (restricted tender)
  • Comment: The Colts must restock the position, and that’s the case regardless of Jack Doyle’s retirement decision (we’re expecting him to call it a career). Alie-Cox brings value and still has room to grow. The question clearly comes down to the cost of bringing him back.

DE Kemoko Turay

Experience: 4 years.
Age: 26.
Games/starts: 38/3.
Career: Injuries have forced him to miss 26 of a possible 64 regular-season games. He’s had 33 tackles, including seven for a loss, 12 sacks and 29 quarterback hits. His 5.5 sacks last season were a career high.
2021 salary cap hit: $1.66 million.
Comment: At what point does Ballard and his staff say enough is enough? We might be there with Turay. On one hand, you’d hate to move on and have him blossom into a reliable edge pass rusher elsewhere. But again, there comes a time when you decide the player isn’t worth further investment.

DL Tyquan Lewis

  • Experience: 4 years.
  • Age: 26.
  • Games/starts: 41/11.
  • Career: Lewis’ ability to move from end to tackle has been invaluable. He’s had 34 tackles, including 11 for a loss, 6.5 sacks, and 12 quarterback hits.
  • 2021 salary cap hit: $1.389 million.
  • Comment: One of the cruelest moments occurred in week 8 against Tennessee when Lewis intercepted a Ryan Tannehill pass and headed upfield, but went down with a torn right patellar tendon. There’s every reason to believe he’ll return to full strength, and we’re in favor of reinvesting in him. It’s debatable if Lewis is a full-time starter, but his value as part of the d-line rotation can’t be overstated. Besides, the injury likely means Lewis will have to accept one of those one-year, prove-it deals.

LT Eric Fisher

  • Experience: 9 years.
  • Games/starts: 132/128.
  • Age: 30.
  • Career: It’s been a good run for Fisher with two Pro Bowl selections and being a key figure in the Kansas City Chiefs reaching Super Bowl LV. A torn Achilles in the 2020 AFC Championship game ended his 8th, and as it turned out, last season with the Chiefs.
  • 2021 salary cap hit: $6.49 million.
  • Comment: It appears the Colts still are looking for a long-term answer at left tackle. As Ballard said last week: “The left tackle is what the left tackle is. We short-term fixed it. We’ve still got to be looking for a long-term solution there. If we have to short-term fix it again because a long-term solution doesn’t show up, that’s what we’ll do.’’ Fisher was a force in the run game, but too often allowed pressure – and sacks – from the left side. In his defense, he came back in week 2 while still dealing with his Achilles rehab.

LB Zaire Franklin

  • Experience: 4 years.
  • Age: 25.
  • Games/starts: 65/15.
  • Career: From special teams standout to 11-game starter in 2021. Franklin’s fourth season included 29 tackles, one interception, 1 fumble recovery, 12 special teams tackles and one blocked punt E.J. Speed returned for a touchdown.
  • 2021 salary cap hit: $941,764.
  • Comment: Ballard loves the depth at linebacker. So, does he re-sign Franklin with a team-friendly deal, or look to reload during the draft?

LB Matthew Adams

  • Experience: 4 years.
  • Age: 25.
  • Games/starts: 59/8.
  • Career: He’s been part of the linebacker depth since being selected in the 7th round of the 2018 draft. He’s had 35 tackles in limited snaps on defense while being a steady contributor on special teams with 20 tackles, including 14 solos.
  • 2021 salary cap hit: $945,396.
  • Comment: As cold as it sounds, he isn’t likely an offseason priority.

S George Odum

  • Experience: 4 years.
  • Age: 28.
  • Games/starts: 65/10.
  • Career: Every team needs a George Odum or two. The 2018 undrafted free agent has been a special teams mainstay – 2020 first-team All-Pro – and a reliable backup at safety. He was pressed into the starting lineup when injuries hit the position last season, and had a career-best seven starts and 45 tackles
  • 2021 base salary: $2.1 million (restricted tender)
  • Comment: This figures to be interesting. The Colts clearly value Odum, but he wasn’t the least bit happy when they slapped him with a lower restricted tender last offseason. He could return, but it will be at the Colts’ value.

DE Al-Quadin Muhammad

  • Experience: 5 years.
  • Age: 26.
  • Games/starts: 68/24.
  • Career: Heavily-involved in the defensive line rotation since being claimed off waivers from Saints in September 2018. Has 127 tackles, including 22 for loss, 11 sacks and 30 quarterback hits. Started all 17 games last season and second on team with 6 sacks and 13 QB hits.
  • 2021 base salary: $3.055 million.
  • Comment: Has value in d-line rotation, but he shouldn’t be a 17-game starter.

RB Marlon Mack

  • Experience: 5 years.
  • Age: 25.
  • Games/starts: 47/23.
  • Career: For two seasons, he was “the guy.’’ Mack led the Colts in rushing in 2018 (908 yards) and ’19 (1,091), but saw his career arc veer in a totally different direction. First, the team selected Jonathan Taylor in the 2nd round of the 2020 draft. Next, he tore an Achilles tendon in the ’20 opener. As Taylor emerged as one of the NFL’s premier players in ’21, Mack had 28 carries for 101 yards and was inactive for the final nine games.
  • 2021 salary cap hit: $2 million.
  • Comment: Mack’s career undoubtedly will unfold elsewhere.

G Chris Reed

  • Experience: 6 years.
  • Age: 29.
  • Games/starts: 61/29.
  • Career: Undrafted free agent of Jacksonville in 2015 who has developed into solid guard the last two seasons. Started 14 games with Carolina in 2020 before signing with Colts as a free agent and starting six of 14 games last season.
  • 2021 salary cap hit: $987,500.
  • Comment: It seems as if one offseason decision involves re-signing Reed or Glowinski. Ballard isn’t likely to allow the top-to-bottom o-line depth to wane.

CB T.J. Carrie

  • Experience: 8 years.
  • Age: 31.
  • Games/starts: 118/54.
  • Career: Productive role player during career with 375 tackles, seven interceptions and 52 passes defended. Integral component in ’21 defense with two interceptions, including one returned for a TD, and eight passes defended.
  • 2021 salary cap hit: $2.025 million.
  • Comment: It was good while it lasted. Colts probably looking for younger replacement.

OL Matt Pryor

  • Experience: 4 years.
  • Age: 26.
  • Games/starts: 44/16.
  • Career: Acquired in late-August trade with Philadelphia and proved to be an important interchangeable part on offensive line. Appeared in all 17 games and had five starts at three different spots (three at right tackle, one at left tackle, one at right guard).
  • 2021 salary cap hit: $920,000.
  • Comment: He might be given a shot at being at least the short-term answer at left tackle.

PK Michael Badgley

  • Experience: 4
  • Age: 26.
  • Games/starts: 47/0.
  • Career: Has converted 70-of-87 field-goal attempts (80.5%) and 122-of-127 PATs.
  • 2021 salary cap hit: $613,333.
  • Comment: Signed after Rodrigo Blankenship suffered hip injury in week 5 game at Baltimore. Converted 18-of-21 field-goal attempts, but length was an issue, as it’s been with Blankenship. Badgley pulled a 47-yarder wide left against the Patriots and was short on a 53-yard attempt at Arizona. Asked about the Colts’ kicking situation, Ballard replied: “Badgley ended up having a pretty good season. I wouldn’t say elite, but it was good. It never really stung us. We think Rod still has upside. It’s too early to say exactly what we’ll do, but we like both of those guys.’’

WR Ashton Dulin (restricted)

  • Experience: 3 years.
  • Age: 24.
  • Games/starts: 43/1.
  • Career: Has 18 receptions for 243 yards and two touchdowns in three seasons, and emerged in ’21 on offense and special teams. Had 13 catches for 173 yards and two TDs, and earned second-team All-Pro special teams honors after piling up 17 tackles, recovering two fumbles and returning one for a TD.
  • 2021 salary cap hit: $850,000.
  • Comment: He’ll be back for 2022. It just depends on which level of restricted tender Ballard uses.

S Andrew Sendejo

  • Experience: 11 years.
  • Age: 34.
  • Games/starts: 136/85.
  • Career: Has 486 tackles and nine interceptions in 11 seasons, including 40 tackles in 12 games and 10 starts with Indy.
  • 2021 base salary: $802,788.
  • Comment: Sendejo probably was a one-and-done member of the Colts.

DT Taylor Stallworth

  • Experience: 4 years.
  • Age: 26.
  • Games/starts: 50/2.
  • Career: Has had two solid seasons and appeared in 32 of 33 games as part of d-line rotation. Had best season in ’21 with 3 sacks, 12 quarterback hits and four tackles for loss.
  • 2021 salary cap hit: $920,000.

DT Antwaun Woods

  • Experience: 4 years.
  • Age: 28.
  • Games/starts: 47/32.
  • Career: Has 88 tackles and 2.5 sacks in four seasons. Had just five tackles in seven appearances with Colts in ’21.
  • 2021 salary cap hit: $517,788.

OT Julién Davenport

  • Experience: 5 years.
  • Age: 26.
  • Games/starts: 60/32.
  • Career: Was brought in to provide depth at tackle and started four of nine games. Never lived up to expectations.
  • 2021 salary cap hit: $987,500.

OT Sam Tevi

  • Experience: 5 years.
  • Age: 26.
  • Games/starts: 58/44.
  • Career: Like Davenport, Tevi was signed to provide depth at tackle. He missed entire season after suffering knee injury during the preseason.
  • 2021 salary cap hit: $3.17 million.

DL Isaac Rochell

  • Experience: 4 years.
  • Age: 26.
  • Games/starts: 63/9.
  • Career: Spot player with Indy after four seasons with Chargers. Appeared in 10 games and had 17 tackles and three quarterback hits.
  • 2021 salary cap hit: $2.47 million.

S Jahleel Addae

  • Experience: 9 years.
  • Age: 31.
  • Games/starts: 116/63; nine games with one start with Colts in ’21.
  • 2021 salary cap hit: $377,778.

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