Since Chris Ballard arrived in Indianapolis in 2017, the Colts have undergone a drastic shift in philosophy on the field, in the locker room, and managing the balance sheet. His predecessor Ryan Grigson came in with a win-now mentality, looking to capitalize on Andrew Luck’s rookie contract and ease the pain of moving on from Peyton Manning — who Colts fans adore to this day. Ballard preached patience and warned that buying culture is impossible and that without it the franchise has no future.
At the time, Ballard had no earthly idea that his biggest asset Andrew Luck would miss an entire season and retire from football after playing just one season during his tenure. Somehow, the Colts pivoted after Luck’s departure and blew what should have been a playoff win in Buffalo a season ago with veteran Philip Rivers at the helm.
All of this has been possible due to some big draft picks and important free agency signings or trades. It has been possible to keep the pocket book lean and carefully choose when and where to splurge. The Colts have huge players to lock up long-term, including two All-Pros and arguably the league's most underappreciated right tackle. They’re in the process of discussing extensions for all three players and careful cap management leaves the team in a position to get it all done before the regular season if negotiations move along efficiently.
Pro Football Focus recently did a review of all 32 NFL teams, pointing out each franchise’s best and worst contract. Kenny Moore’s deal, which has him as the league’s 23rd highest-paid cornerback, is their pick for the best. PFF ranks Moore as the league’s top nickel corner and sees the remaining contract and guaranteed money as a bargain.
Carson Wentz is isolated as Indy’s worst contract. This fact highlights how incredibly well Ballard and Mike Bluem have managed the Colts salary cap. Consider that when Rivers retired, the Colts had to find a veteran option to potentially fill in long-term. When you also consider the relationship Wentz and Reich had from their days in Philadelphia, as well as the positive turn for Rivers who also had a strong connection with Reich from their time in San Diego, it’s not difficult to imagine why Ballard and the front office chose to go in that direction.
Perhaps more important, getting Wentz took only two draft picks and only one of those two could be a first-rounder in 2022. The bulk of Wentz’s dead cap is going to be painfully digested by the Philadelphia Eagles and GM Howie Roseman. The Colts? After 2022, Wentz has no dead money against Indy’s cap. If the worst contract on the Colts roster is one that hurts another franchise more and one with implications that lasts for only two years, Ballard and Bluem have to be considered one of the brightest combinations in franchise cash and salary cap management in the league.