Colts: What do in-house contract extensions have to do with leftover cap space?

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - SEPTEMBER 29: General manager Chris Ballard of the Indianapolis Colts (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - SEPTEMBER 29: General manager Chris Ballard of the Indianapolis Colts (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images) /

Chris Ballard and the Indianapolis Colts have done a masterful job of spinning their lack of free agency spending this offseason as the byproduct of saving up for extensions eventually to be given out to Quenton Nelson and Darius Leonard.

However, a closer examination proves that line of reasoning doesn’t hold up.

Despite trading for Carson Wentz and bringing back TY Hilton, most of Ballard’s moves have been incremental, with the signings of two former Los Angeles Chargers players in Isaac Rochell and Sam Tevi standing out as two of his most noteworthy changes.

Ballard came into the offseason with tons of cap space. While teams like the New England Patriots, Jacksonville Jaguars, and New York Jets used similar space to great effect, Indianapolis hasn’t done much to move the needle after the Wentz trade.

The Colts have $31 million in cap space right now, and the Nelson and Leonard extensions wouldn’t kick in until next season, at the earliest.

If that’s the case, what’s been the hold-up this offseason?

The Colts could’ve added veterans to compete this year with their cap space.

Sure, those two extensions will weigh heavily on Indy’s salary cap, as does Wentz’s expensive contract, but Ballard couldn’t have enticed veterans with some expensive one or two-year contracts? This is a team that is allegedly trying to compete for a championship this season, so why is he so reluctant to spend?

The Colts could use some studs at left tackle, wide receiver, and cornerback that truly make a difference. Retaining your own, as Ballard did with Hilton and Xavier Rhodes, is important, but that doesn’t mean that they totally have to sit everything else out because of this.

The salary cap isn’t “a myth”, but GMs all over the league have shown how they can get creative with signing bonuses, voidable years, and other such cap gymnastics in order to remain financially flexible. Ballard couldn’t do the same? Something isn’t adding up here.

Ballard appears to be afraid of potentially missing on a free agent and signing them to a contract far above market value. Either that, or he is petrified of losing one of his two stars so much that he is willing to let the roster deteriorate to sign them both. That lack of aggression could come back to haunt the Colts.