Revisiting the Colts trading edge rusher Jerry Hughes to Buffalo.
The Indianapolis Colts have had the luxury of boasting front office continuity for the better part of the last 20 years. Though current general manager Chris Ballard has them set up to enjoy success into the future, Bill Polian, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2015 as a GM, deserves most of the credit.
After all, he was the mastermind behind the incredibly successful Peyton Manning era.
However, for as many draft picks, trades and free agent signings that Polian hit on during his 13-year tenure running the Colts, he (like any executive) did have his fair share of miscalculations. Look no further than his decision to draft edge rusher Jerry Hughes with the No. 31 overall pick of the 2010 NFL Draft.
When you consider how poor Hughes’ time in Indianapolis was, it really didn’t come as a surprise that the franchise traded him to the Buffalo Bills in 2013 for linebacker Kelvin Sheppard. Well, with the former surprisingly still playing at a productive level, it seems like an appropriate time to revisit the deal and analyze it from the perspective of both teams.
In fairness to the Colts, there was simply no way for them to know that Hughes was going to turn into a perennial world-beater. How did the TCU product announce his presence with the Bills? By posting double-digit sacks in each of his first two seasons. Fast forward to the present and he’s entering his eighth year in Buffalo. During that span (96 starts), he’s registered 303 tackles, 46.5 sacks, 99 QB hits, 13 passes defensed and 12 forced fumbles.
For context, Hughes started just seven of his 40 appearances with Indianapolis, across which he compiled 62 tackles, five sacks and 12 QB hits. It’s quite obvious that the 31-year-old could have been as productive as he was in Buffalo had the Colts given him regular playing time.
We’ve seen dozens of examples through the years of NFL teams giving up on a player only to watch them morph into a stud with another organization. The Colts selling their Hughes stock way too early absolutely falls under that category, and it really makes you wonder what could have been had they found a way to make him a starter.
If nothing else, this trade confirms that Polian was the best of the best when it came to recognizing star talent. You can’t even call his Hughes pick, which was considered one of his worst ever, a bust. After all, it wasn’t his fault the former first-rounder didn’t pan out in Indianapolis.