There has been a lot of talk amongst Colts fans recently about whether the team should go after Melvin Ingram in free agency - and for good reason.
The fit seems ideal: the Colts are a team desperate for pass rush help, and Ingram is the best pass rusher set to become a free agent. Drafted by the Chargers in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft, Ingram has played in 61 games and started 44, recording 203 tackles, 24.5 sacks, 18 passes defensed, and eleven forced fumbles. He really began to hit his stride in the past two seasons, as he’s started every game in that span and has recorded 18.5 sacks, 39 quarterback hits, 24 tackles for loss, seven forced fumbles, and eleven passes defensed. He racked up 10.5 sacks and 20 quarterback hits in 2015, and then followed that up with eight sacks and 19 quarterback hits in 2016. According to Pro Football Focus (who ranked him as the fourth-best free agent this year), he recorded 72 total pressures last year and also was capable in coverage.
Ingram is the best edge rusher available on the market, and he’s also coming from a familiar system: in San Diego he played in a 3-4 with defensive coordinator John Pagano, Chuck’s brother. So it would be a similar situation for him in Indianapolis, which always helps things too.
The one main objection that some have to signing Melvin Ingram is the price tag - because it will be significant. Spotrac recently projected what Ingram’s next contract will be based on similar situations and came up with a five-year, $86.4 million deal worth around $17.2 million per year. That’s a lot, and it would make Ingram among the highest-paid outside linebackers in the game. It’s understandable why that would scare people.
On the flip side, however, pass rushers are a rare commodity in the NFL - the Colts should know that as well as anyone. They’ve tried in the draft (Bjoern Werner) and in free agency (Trent Cole) to find guys to get after the quarterback, but it hasn’t worked. If a proven pass rusher in his prime (Ingram will turn 28 this offseason) becomes available, it’s almost a foregone conclusion that he’ll get paid significantly.
So it’s not really worth arguing whether Ingram is “worth” that much money, because he’s going to get paid regardless. That then brings us to the Colts, who need a pass rusher as desperately as any team in the NFL. They’re projected to have around $55 million in cap room, and they could clear up more if they cut Art Jones. Their top free agents to re-sign include Jack Doyle, maybe Darius Butler and/or Mike Adams, maybe Erik Walden, and Robert Turbin. None of those guys are going to break the bank. So the Colts - with Andrew Luck already locked up for the long-term - have plenty of money to spend. So why not go after the top pass rusher on the market, a guy who’s produced in a similar system and is still in his prime? Sure, he’ll cost a lot, but free agency is a crapshoot anyway - why not go after the best EDGE guy on the market?
No perfect player will ever hit free agency, and good free agents will almost always be overpaid. Those two things are a given. For the Colts, though, spending money on the top pass rusher seems like a better idea than trying to find a diamond in the rough for cheap. With a huge need at pass rush, a ton of money to spend, and a continually rising cap, the Colts should absolutely pursue Melvin Ingram if he does indeed hit the open market.