INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The tidal wave of green has passed, making a handful of players ridiculously wealthy and portending the more reasonable phase of the NFL’s veteran free agent market.
This is the time Chris Ballard undoubtedly has been waiting for. Let the silliness subside. Get busy when it makes fiscal sense.
The Indianapolis Colts had varying degrees of interest in several players when the market opened last week, but had zero interest in giving Giants safety Landon Collins $84 million over six years, including $45 million guaranteed. And they had zero interest in offering Washington linebacker Preston Smith a four-year, $52 million deal that included $16 million in guarantees.
Now, activity should pick up at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center.
Now, no one should be surprised if Ballard and his personnel staff strike a deal or two – maybe even three or four – with players who upgrade the roster but do so at a more reasonable contract. According to overthecap.com, the Colts still have a league-high $77 million in cap space.
As we move forward and the April 25-27 NFL draft nears, keep an eye on which players visit where. In some instances, Ballard is simply kicking the tires and determining whether a player fits the schemes in Indy or if any red flags – injury, age, previous off-field issues – disqualifies that player from further consideration.
As week 2 of free agency begins, here are reported visits by free agents to Indy or visits by Colts’ free agents elsewhere:
CLAYTON GEATHERS, safety
NFL pedigree: 4th-round pick of Colts in 2015, 109th selection overall.
Experience: Four seasons with Colts; 41 games, 24 starts.
Comment: He’s one of Ballard’s favorites and the GM wants to re-sign him. However, according to a source with knowledge of the situation, negotiations are “complicated.” That’s a direct reflection of Geathers’ health. He’s missed 22 games the last three seasons with a variety of injuries, including a disc issue in his neck that required surgery after the 2016 season.
Failing Geathers agreeing to whatever the Colts initially offered, Ballard’s plan was for Geathers to gauge his value on the open market. And that’s happening. ESPN’s Field Yates reported Geathers is visiting the Dallas Cowboys Monday.
KENTRELL BRICE, safety
NFL pedigree: Signed with Green Bay in 2016 as an undrafted free agent.
Experience: Spent the past three seasons with the Packers; 36 games, 14 starts . . . started 10 games in 2018 and had career highs with 50 tackles.
Comment: Brice visited Indy late last week, according to ESPN’s Rob Demovsky. This is the type of player that makes sense. He’s clearly the right age, possesses experience and wouldn’t break the bank. It’s possible Brice is considered a fallback option if Geathers doesn’t return. Brice was a restricted free agent that was not issued a one-year tender by the Packers (Update: signed 1-year deal with Tampa Bay Monday).
JAY AJAYI, running back
NFL pedigree: 5th-round draft pick of Miami in 2015, 149th selection overall.
Experience: 5 years in league, including stints with Dolphins and Philadelphia; 42 games, 23 starts . . . 2,516 yards, 13 TDs and 4.5 yards per attempt in career . . . 1,272 yards, 8 TDs and Pro Bowl appearance in 2016.
Comment: NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Ajayi has scheduled a visit to Indy this week. The overriding question has to do with Ajayi’s health. His 2018 season with Philly ended in week 5 with a torn ACL. The Eagles acquired Ajayi in a trade with Miami midway through the 2017 season and he was a key component as they went on win Super Bowl LII. In the playoffs, Ajayi rushed 58 times for 217 yards, including 57 yards on 9 carries against New England in the Super Bowl.
Frank Reich knows everything he needs to know about Ajayi’s value to an offense from their time together in ’17. Ajayi possesses the versatility Reich covets in a running back and might represent a nice complement to Marlon Mack and Nyheim Hines.