As a fan, it’s easy to view player transactions during the NFL offseason as controlled chaos. More players change teams than most would care to keep up with and only the big names generate any discussion. Every once in a while though, fans start to notice a pattern.
For instance, the Indianapolis Colts — a small market team from the Midwest — have an active relationship with the New York Jets — a major market team from the East Coast. There would appear to be a bit more than just chaos involved in what has become a very active rotation of NFL talent. While the Colts have acquired a few players from the Jets, only one has come by way of trade recently and the rest have primarily been practice squad or training camp players.
Before we get into how this relationship started. Here is a list of transactions that have occurred dating back to the early off-season of the 2016 NFL Season.
- Colts trade CB Quincy Wilson to Jets for 6th round pick #211 — CB/ST Isaiah Rodgers 04/25/2020
- Jets sign former Colts CB Pierre Desir 03/22/2020
- Jets sign former backup IOL Josh Andrews 03/21/2020
- Jets claim former Colts TE Ross Travis from waivers 12/28/2019
- Jets sign former Colts S Matthias Farley 08/28/2019
- Colts trade CB Nate Hairston to Jets for conditional 6th round pick 08/29/2019
- Jets claim former Colts DE Tarell Basham 10/05/2018
- Colts trade DL Henry Anderson to Jets for 6th round pick #235 — LB Zaire Franklin 04/28/2018
- Colts trade 1st Round pick #3 (QB Sam Darnold) to Jets for 2018 1st Round pick #6, 2nd Round pick #37 and #49 and 2019 2nd Round pick – G Quenton Nelson, T Braden Smith, DE Kemoko Turay #52 and RB Jordan Wilkins #169, CB Rock Ya-Sin 2019 2nd Round pick #34 03/17/2018
- Colts trade LS Thomas Hennessy to Jets for S Ronald Martin 08/28/2017
- Jets sign former Colts IOL Jonotthan Harrison 03/28/2017
- Jets sign former Colts T Benjamin Ijalana by way of JAX 04/09/2016
Before we dig into what is likely a very strong basis for this budding relationship, it would be unfair to the players on the list above not to note that they had enough talent to have been likely targets by a number of franchises. In some respects, coincidence or circumstance likes plays a role here, no matter what connection exists.
With that said, one of the primary reasons the Colts and Jets have formed such an unlikely relationship is Rex Hogan. Hogan is currently the Assistant General Manager for the Jets. If his name sounds familiar, it’s because Chris Ballard targeted Hogan when he joined the Colts in 2017. Ballard had long been fond of Hogan’s expertise and made him Vice President of Player Personnel in Indianapolis — a position Hogan held while the Colts talent acquisition and scouting teams were putting together a monster draft in 2018.
Before Hogan landed with the Colts in 2017 he served as the senior director for college scouting with, you guessed it, the New York Jets.
So, an NFL personnel guru who has spent time with only two franchises dating back to 2015 helps to create a bridge where there likely wouldn’t be one. Hogan’s relationships and trust built in New York likely fueled the beginnings of an amicable relationship. His return to the Jets and strong relationship with Ballard has allowed that connection and trust to continue.
The mutual respect between Hogan and Ballard speaks volumes as why players have been passed around so frequently between the two franchises. Hogan has seen players first hand who ended up in New York. He trusts Ballard’s process and is familiar with most of his scouting department. Ballard is smart enough to know that the Jets have been playing in a division with the New England Patriots, making them a potentially attractive target in the draft as well, given that they more often select in the upper or middle areas of each round.
It’s reasonable to expect that so long as Hogan remains with the Jets and Ballard remains with the Colts, the player activity and draft trade opportunities will continue.
The one that stings
There are a number of players that ended up with the Jets that will leave a bad taste in Colts fans’ mouths. Former draft picks that failed to pan out in Indianapolis, veteran former starters or significant role players whose absence created holes on the Colts depth chart, and some project players who showed promise but never got their opportunity.
The one that stings the most has to be the trade of Henry Anderson for a sixth round pick that became Zaire Franklin. No disrespect to Franklin, who has become a valuable special teams contributor and is a strong depth player for Indianapolis at linebacker, but Anderson showed a lot of potential in Indianapolis. He had the kind of versatility that should have translated well to what the Colts were looking to do in the transition to Matt Eberflus’ and Mike Phair’s defensive philosophy.
It would be difficult to argue that Margus Hunt was a superior alternative to Anderson and one could easily argue that Anderson and Denico Autry are similar players.
There aren’t many trades and transactions during Chris Ballard’s tenure as Colts General Manager that appear objectively lopsided in favor of another team but the Anderson trade appears to be a mistake. One is left to wonder if there was some other reason for the move.