If you take one look at the Indianapolis Colts’ $45 million in projected cap space, it makes sense why fans are anticipating them to be one of the most active teams in free agency over the next several weeks.
With needs at positions like left tackle, wide receiver and cornerback, what possible reason could general manager Chris Ballard have to not spend like a drunken sailor?
Well, according to the latest reports, he actually has two fairly significant ones.
Per insider Zak Keefer of The Athletic, the Colts are kicking the tires on signing linebacker Darius Leonard and right tackle Braden Smith, both of whom were taken back-to-back in the second round of the 2018 draft, to contract extensions this offseason.
Seeing as though Leonard and Smith deserve to be made one of the highest-paid players at their respective positions, these potential deals could really eat into Indy’s cap space.
In other words, the entire complexion of the team’s free agency plans could change.
The Colts are reportedly planning to sign Darius Leonard and Braden Smith to contract extensions this offseason.
This is part of what makes building a championship contender so difficult. Entering the offseason, the Colts had over $70 million in cap room at their disposal. That figure dropped to below $50 million following the trade for Carson Wentz, and more is likely to come off the board if one or both of Leonard and Smith sign extensions.
Is it possible that Leonard and Smith sign backloaded, team-friendly teams in order to maximize Indianapolis’ spending flexibility this offseason? Without a doubt, but even if that happens the team won’t have anywhere close to $45 million, which means they (if they’re lucky) will be able to land two high-profile free agents at most.
This obviously isn’t the worst-case scenario. It just means Ballard might have to get creative with how he addresses certain areas of need, whether it be finding bargains on the open market, unloading draft capital for a star on an expiring contract, or simply selecting a starting-caliber prospect in the draft next month.
Whatever the case, at least Ballard and the Colts have plenty of options. We just don’t want fans to be disappointed when some of the biggest free agent stars start falling like dominos over the next few days and Indy is spectating from the sidelines.
Think about it like this: locking down two franchise cornerstones for the foreseeable future is just as (if not more) important than being the biggest spender in free agency. After all, the deals for Leonard and Smith will look very reasonable in two years before the salary cap skyrockets when the league’s new television deals come into play.