The Colts defense under Chris Ballard underwent a dramatic change in personnel. If we have learned anything about Ballard in his brief tenure with the Colts, it is this: he isn’t planning on slowing down. The roster will be scrutinized, players will be added, and every possible means of improving this roster will be investigated.
While it seems likely that the offense will get the major overhaul in free agency, I certainly think Ballard will remain on the lookout for ways to improve his young defense. That is why a logical move is to get on the phone with the Seattle Seahawks and see about trading for Bobby Wagner.
At first glance, many of you will immediately say, “It’ll never happen. Seattle won’t let him go.” You might be right. But there are some extenuating circumstances here.
First, let’s look at their cap situation. According to Over the Cap, they are projected to have $13.74 million in cap space for 2018. By itself that isn’t great, but add to it the fact that they have a ton of guys set to hit free agency, and you can see they have problems.
They can replenish their talent cheaply through the draft though, right? Well, not really. Seattle only has 4 picks in this draft. They traded their second rounder to the Jets for DT Sheldon Richardson, who is one of those free agents, and their third-round pick to the Texans in the deal that brought on LT Duane Brown. What they need is twofold. They need relief from their poor cap situation, and they need draft capital.
Next, let’s talk about the coaching situation in Seattle. This offseason has been a wholesale change for the staff. Pete Carroll remains a constant, but the team fired several coaches. That included defensive coordinator Kris Richard, a guy who was getting head coaching interviews with several teams, including the Colts. This kind of unrest across the coaching staff and the changes it will result in may be enough for the Seahawks to decide that they need to take more dramatic action to begin essentially rebuilding this team given the outlook in their division.
Then there is the connection to the Colts. With the hiring of Ed Dodds as their Vice President of Player Personnel, the Colts and Chris Ballard established a relationship of sorts with the Seahawks that might provide the kind of inroads to make a deal like this work, as Dodds was a part of the staff that drafted Wagner.
So how about the fit? Well, regardless of the Colts facing the likely prospect of at least some sort of schematic change on defense, they are going to need help at the inside linebacker position. It is by far the most glaring weakness on the defense, and it was largely the linebackers who were responsible for missing the tackles late in games that resulted in massive runs. If not for those, the Colts defense by the numbers would look dramatically different.
Wagner is one of the best inside linebackers in football. In fact, Pro Football Focus has him as the #1 and named him to their 2017 All-Pro team. According to their charting, Wagner only missed 3 tackles all season. Those came in the last game when he played with an injured hamstring and was trying to help his team get to the playoffs. The Colts have had linebackers miss 3 tackles on one play at times, so this would be a major upgrade.
His ability to cover sideline to sideline in pass coverage as well as defend against the run makes him unique and an invaluable talent to add to any roster. The Colts need to infuse that kind of talent into the defense, and this would be a means to not just improve their weakest spot on the defense, but turn it into a strength.
What might be more important is the presence that Wagner could bring. Having a veteran defensive player who has been a part of a historically great defense and won a Super Bowl would be a huge addition to a very young defense that does not have any obvious leader.
Under Wagner’s current deal, he is set to make $13.6 and $14.1 million respectively over the next two seasons. He would be 29 years old and entering free agency after the 2019 season. That would mean that the Colts would not be on the hook for a ton of money in the long term, but could possibly work to negotiate an extension if Wagner’s play continued to be at the elite level. All the while, this would give them time to develop young talent to take his place.
With all those questions answered, the most important one is this: What is it going to cost? Elite talent doesn’t come cheap, but in this case, the Colts might be able to get what would amount to a great deal. I think it would definitely interest the Seahawks if the Colts were to float an offer to send their 3rd and 4th round picks in exchange for Wagner and the Seahawks 4th rounder. Losing their 3rd round pick is not ideal, but finding an All-Pro talent there is likely a shot in the dark, and moving back from pick 100 to 116 in the 4th round would not sting too badly in a draft that is said to be deep in the middle.
Ballard has shown that he is not afraid to wheel and deal, and he won’t hesitate to bring in guys who fit his vision for the team and can improve the roster. This move, to me, is a no-brainer. Would the Seahawks be willing to discuss it? Who knows. But if I’m Chris Ballard, I’m picking up the phone.
What do you think? Would you like to see the Colts make this trade?
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