Current Indianapolis Colts Off-Season Assets
$36,986,936 salary space (according to spotrac.com)
Round 2 pick 47
Round 3 pick 82
Round 4 pick 118
Round 5 pick 157
Round 7 pick 236
Round 7 pick 237
(Potential for additional 5th and 6th Round picks via Compensatory picks after losing Deneco Autry and Jacoby Brissett in free agency)
Current positional needs- QB, LT, EDGE/LEO, WR, TE, CB, S, K
First on the list, QB. I’ve not been shy in my stance that Carson Wentz will give the Colts their best chance to win next year. I’m also willing to admit he's the guy that gives the Colts a chance to win 12 games and have almost zero chance at winning a SB. So what can be done about it?
Draft? Sure. Ballard will have somewhere between 6-8 picks to begin the draft. But the success rate for QBs starting with the Colts first selection (pick 47) is somewhere around 13%. Do we trust that Ballard is the guy to find that “once every 6 year” starter? I mean he traded for Brissett and Wentz, drafted Eason and Ehlinger, and passed on Matt Stafford (according to basically everyone in Indy with a platform). Even the biggest gamblers around wouldn’t suggest that’s a worthy bet.
Meanwhile, other positions have a significantly higher hit rate when selected in round 2. For example, WRs taken in the 1st and 2nd rounds, have shown a nearly equal chance( ~50%) at being a “hit”. Hit being defined as a multi year starter. As far as I can tell, OL (~70%), LB (~55%), WR/DB (~50%) are most likely, historically, to succeed. That being said, I’m taking my top rated lineman on the board and finding a way to get my best 5 on the field.
Round 2, Pick 47 - OL
Round 3 provides us with the last chance, with any reasonable expectation, to find a day 1 starter. I’ll lean on Ballard’s track record here and trust him to find a 3rd Safety in round 3. They have a decent success rate at 25%, and Ballard has done well identifying these guys. Yes there is a need for Safety following the Blackmon injury and addition of a DC in Gus Bradley, that often plays with 3 Safeties.
Round 3, Pick 82 - Safety
In round 4-7 I’m a firm believer of picking either a potential injured player that would have otherwise been drafted in the top 100, or simply filling holes with players that flash in certain aspects, allowing them to play special teams or have a specialized depth role.
Rounds 4-7 - BPA
Free Agency - Salary Cap
It’s no secret Ballard would prefer not to use free agency. But with a vocal owner/boss breathing down his neck, I’m assuming this will somewhat change. No I don’t expect Ballard to suddenly pull a Belichick and go against his philosophy to spend big money on multiple guys, shocking the NFL world, but I do expect him to entertain the idea and bring in a player on both sides of the ball. Gus Bradley has a history of bringing in guys that he’s worked with and even drafted in the past, so my guess is edge rush comes from guys like former 3rd overall picks Dante Fowler and Solomon Thomas. These guys would still allow Paye and Dayo plenty of playing time to develop and succeed.
FA - DE/LEO - Fowler and Thomas ; 12M
This leaves Indy with around $24M and a big hole, whether Ballard chooses to admit it or not, at WR. If the WR position is not upgraded, it not only won’t matter who is playing QB, you won’t be able to find one willing to risk his career to play here. Remember, outside of the elite QBs, the ones that don’t change teams and on the rare occasion they do, they pick their team, the majority of QBs are always auditioning for their next contract. Take a look at the teams with QB needs and rank the Colts weapons next to them. Now imagine you’re that QB and get to pick, as a FA and established vet QB does, where you play next. Are you picking the Colts WR room over those of Carolina, Minnesota, or Denver?
According to spotrac, we can expect guys like Allen Robinson and Mike Williams to land contracts in the $16M per year range. While WRs such as Christian Kirk, Micheal Gallup, and DJ Chark are found in the $12M range.
Offense FA - WR - Gallup/Kirk ; 12-13M
This leaves team needs at CB, TE, K, and QB, exhausted draft picks, and around 12M to spend. This number could grow to $19M if Wentz were to be released, but that won’t be enough to add another QB, sign your draft class, and fill the remaining holes that may develop over time with injuries.
Seems to leave Ballard with two choices. A choice I’m glad I don’t have to make. Stick with Wentz and convince yourself another year removed from Philadelphia, another year with Frank Reich, another year to work on his mental health will lead to better decision making and poise. Or dump Wentz, save the $7M and use up your future assets to go all in. Just don’t be surprised if “ALL-IN” doesn’t mean trading for a current star. It’s just not likely any are truly possible. No, all-in likely means a package to get into the top 5 of the draft and select a QB from what is being called one of the weakest draft classes in several years.