The Indianapolis Colts are unfortunately feeling the effects of general manger Chris Ballard’s outstanding track record over the last four seasons, as they’ve been sitting out the initial waves of free agency to preserve cap space for a trio of homegrown stars.
For any fans thinking Ballard and Co. are intentionally passing up on signing potential quality signings, that simply isn’t the case.
Any time you get the chance to lock up three players, each of whom are among the best in the league at their respective positions, you simply have to do it.
That’s arguably just as essential (if not more) as far as maximizing a team’s championship window, and ensuring Darius Leonard, Quenton Nelson and Braden Smith remain a part of the Colts’ core for the foreseeable future is the epitome of a no-brainer.
It’s been noted by analysts that Indy has enough cap space to make a big splash and extend their 2018 draft gems, but let’s not forget that Carson Wentz and DeForest Buckner also have lofty salaries coming their way next season, too.
In his latest “Football Morning in America” column for NBC Sports, insider Peter King laid out exactly why the Colts have been hoarding their ample cap space.
For any fans in Indianapolis who are up in arms with the team’s lack of urgency, do yourselves a favor and read this.
Here’s what King had to say about the Colts’ conservative approach to free agency:
"“Common question over the past six days: The Colts have $35 million in cap room, so why aren’t they spending it? It’s pretty simple. Before opening day 2022, the Colts will already have two big salaries—Carson Wentz and DeForest Buckner—taking up $38 million in cap room,” King wrote.“And it’s likely by then that three more current Colts will join them: guard Quenton Nelson, tackle Braden Smith and linebacker Darius Leonard, at a combined average of about $47 million a year.”“The Colts, then, will have five players taking up about 45 percent of their cap, or 45 percent of their average-salary compensation. Because the Colts are a pretty consistent ‘cash to cap’ team—they don’t dish out a bunch of huge signing bonuses in any particular year, but rather try to keep cash spending in line with the cap most years.”"
The next time you think about berating Ballard for letting another marquee free agent fall by the wayside, remind yourself that Indianapolis will likely have five players making top-of-the-market money by next season, taking up close to 50% of their total cap space.
Like we noted earlier, this is the ultimate pitfall of Ballard being a master talent evaluator when it comes to the draft.
However, there’s still plenty of time for him to make top-drawer additions to the roster. They just aren’t likely to come until after Leonard, Nelson and Smith sign extensions.
As much as those players deserve their money, they (hopefully) want to win a championship just as badly, so don’t be surprised if their contracts are structured in a fashion that helps the Colts boost their spending budget this offseason and next.
It’s duly noted that the free agent pool is dwindling, but there should be plenty of impact players remaining by the time those deals are finalized. Let’s just hope Ballard and Co. are pushing the envelope to get them done as soon as humanly possible, because it won’t be like that forever.