The Indianapolis Colts are targeting Dontari Poe in free agency, and they had him in the building today for a visit. That visit reportedly “went well,” but Poe left without a deal and is headed to visit the Jaguars. That obviously isn’t a great sign for the Colts’ chances of signing him, but the Colts are apparently “still in the mix” for Poe.
Dontari Poe is obviously a big name and would be a big addition to the Colts’ defense, giving them a legitimate nose tackle for the first time under Chuck Pagano. The impact of getting a guy like that defensively shouldn’t be ignored, but at this point it’s looking uncertain as to whether the Colts will actually sign Poe. For some fans, that has been cause for concern this afternoon. But regardless of what happens, here’s something that has to be considered: though Chris Ballard won’t be perfect on his moves, I think he probably has a really good idea of what Poe is worth. Ballard spent the past four seasons with the Chiefs, so he knows Poe quite well. In particular, with concerns from some about Poe’s long-term health and back issues, it seems logical that Ballard would know better than most about any potential concerns. So he probably has a good idea of Poe’s value.
Again, that doesn’t mean that he’ll be perfect and perhaps he’ll be wrong on this move, but I think there’s understandable reason to think Ballard knows what he’s doing - and besides, the Colts have other options they could pursue too. Poe will likely get paid significantly (Spotrac projected him to get a five-year deal that averages $12.1 million per year), and the Colts have the money to pay him - but if they don’t sign him, they would have money to use another way.
Like, perhaps, going after Dont’a Hightower. The 27-year old inside linebacker is one of the very best free agents on the market this year, and he has played very well for the Patriots over the past five seasons. So far we haven’t seen the Colts connected to Hightower in terms of any legitimate reports, but they have a big need at inside linebacker. Hightower is reportedly meeting with the Jets, but the Patriots are interested too and other teams are monitoring the situation. Perhaps not signing Poe could cause the Colts to get in on the Dont’a Hightower pursuit, which would mean pursuing a legitimate starting inside linebacker.
Or perhaps not signing Poe would mean that the Colts go after another one of the tackles on the market, such as Bennie Logan or Johnathan Hankins. Logan, 27, has spent the past four seasons with the Eagles and has produced. Hankins, 24, has similarly produced in the last four seasons with the Giants. Both players have something in common: they are both young players who have already produced in the NFL but have more room to get even better. Though Dontari Poe is the top defensive lineman on the market, Logan and Hankins aren’t bad players and could really help the interior of the Colts’ defensive line. I’d expect both of them to wait to sign until after Poe signs somewhere, so if the Colts don’t sign Poe it’s very realistic to think they could go after either Logan or Hankins. Both guys are very good against the run and could be legitimate starting nose tackles for the Colts.
Basically, here’s the idea: the Colts don’t have to sign Dontari Poe. I know a number of Colts fans really want Poe and it’s easy to see why, but Indy will have other options to consider if Poe signs elsewhere. In other words, it’s probably not worth drastically overpaying from what Chris Ballard estimates Poe is worth. That is likely the reason for Poe leaving without a contract today, but Ballard probably has a good idea of Poe’s value and the Colts have options even if they don’t sign him. Perhaps it would free them up to make a run at Hightower? Perhaps it would cause them to turn to Logan or Hankins in free agency? Perhaps it would allow them to make a move we haven’t even discussed. With so many holes on the defensive side of the football, the Colts will have options. Dontari Poe is a very good player and it would be a good move if the Colts can sign him, but it’s not neccessarily a failure of an offseason if they don’t.