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Ballard: Colts Shopped Hankins for a Couple Weeks Before Release

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Colts GM Chris Ballard explained the release for Johnathan Hankins on Wednesday.

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Indianapolis Colts Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard made an appearance on the “Grady & Big Joe” show on 1070 The Fan on Wednesday morning, and one thing he was asked about was the release of stud defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins.

The Colts unexpectedly released Hankins last Saturday. The move surprised pretty much everybody because, just one year into a three-year deal, Hankins played very well for the Colts. He was a highly coveted free agent last year, and he is again now that he’s back on the market.

Here is what Ballard had to say to “Grady & Big Joe” (Kevin Bowen was filling in for Joe) about the release of Hankins:

That was a very difficult decision. We’ve been trying to move him here for the last two weeks. Johnathan Hankins is a good football player, and he’s really good versus the run, and he’s a great kid. But at the end of the day, he didn’t fit schematically what we’re gonna do. This defense is predicated on athleticism and speed, and we’re gonna have a little more work to do defensively to get that done. In Chicago, and if you look in Dallas where they’re really playing this scheme, and then you look back to when Tony Dungy was here, primarily most of those players were drafted and developed within the system. It’s predicated on speed and athleticism, and going forward, that’s what we’re going to be coveting. At the end of the day, Johnathan Hankins is a really good player and he’s gonna play in this league and have a good, long career going forward, but he just didn’t fit the financial obligations, plus the non-fit just made it tough.

Here are some things that I took from that:

  • One of the conclusions that many first thought was that perhaps there was a suspension or some sort of discipline coming down the pipe against Hankins. After awhile, that cooled down. Colts owner Jim Irsay tweeted out on Saturday that “scheme changes are hard.” Ballard’s comments today should further put that to bed if there were still any questions.
  • After the “Is Hankins in trouble?” talk died down, the Colts’ change to the 4-3 defense from the 3-4 was thrown into the mix. Many pointed out that Hankins actually came from a 4-3 defense with the New York Giants before joining the Colts last offseason. However, not all 4-3 systems are the same, and the Colts’ won’t be the same under coordinator Matt Eberflus as Steve Spagnuolo was with Hankins in New York. A 325-pound run stuffer isn’t going to be the type of player the Colts look for at defensive tackle, especially not at Hankins’ price ($30 million total, $15.9 guaranteed).
  • Releasing Hankins instead of trading him seemed very curious. He is still almost only 26 years old and in his prime. However, Ballard said that they had been trying to shop him around for the last couple of weeks. Perhaps teams weren’t willing to take on the remainder of his contract, or maybe the Colts didn’t feel like the compensation was good enough.
  • In almost every scenario, it seems Ballard would rather hold onto a draft pick than a free agent signing any day. That shouldn’t come as a surprise, as he mentions how he feels about the draft almost every time that he speaks with the media.

Although the move to release Hankins was very unexpected and disappointed many, it’s good to now have it out there exactly why he was released. Under previous administration, we may not have received that answer.