According to The Athletic’s Mike Sando (subscription), Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard ranks 6th best (tied) in the league when ranking each NFL GM (among the 26 incumbents, i.e. returning 2021 NFL GMs) by his ten most expensive free agent signings respectively:
T-6. Chris Ballard, Indianapolis Colts
Average signing score: 2.0
Philip Rivers helped get the Colts back into the playoffs on a below-market deal for higher-end starting quarterbacks, so his signing lands in Category 1 even though Indy might have wanted a second season from him. Justin Houston ranks tied with Joey Bosa for ninth in sacks (19) while ranking 32nd in pressures since the Colts signed him before the 2019 season. Denico Autry was a shockingly good signing. He has 25 sacks in three seasons with Indy after collecting 12 sacks in four seasons with the Raiders.
The scores were assigned based on the following categories:
Category 1: Moves a smart GM would make again (20 percent of signings)
Category 2: Moves we could make a case for either way (37 percent of signings)
Category 3: Moves a smart GM would not make again (43 percent of signings)
Ballard received three ‘Category Ones’ (i.e., smart GM signings) with Philip Rivers, Justin Houston, and Denico Autry, but received three ‘Category Threes’ (i.e, ‘let’s not repeat that’) with Devin Funchess, Ryan Grant, and Austin Howard.
Of course, Ballard has a reputation for being notoriously prudent with spending big money in free agency, electing to sign players during the second and third waves of free agency—rather than overpay them beyond his assigned value for a respective free agent.
His more lucrative free agent contracts rarely go beyond essentially two-year commitments.
Armed with roughly $47M of available cap space ahead of free agency, his ‘fiscally responsible’ approach shouldn’t change much for Indianapolis this offseason.