It became abundantly clear early on that the Indianapolis Colts were going to spend the initial stages of free agency spectating from the sidelines.
Though fans begrudgingly accepted that to be the case, GM Chris Ballard’s conservative nature almost became overwhelming as the weeks went by. Not only was Indy bypassing opportunities to vastly upgrade their roster, but other contenders jumped at the chance to do so.
Where the Colts started winning back fans trust, however, was when they started retaining some of their key players from last season, including wideout TY Hilton and cornerback Xavier Rhodes.
You could even include Marlon Mack in that discussion. Though the former fourth-round pick only appeared in one game, he was vital to the success of the offense in the previous two campaigns.
Speaking strictly in terms of Rhodes, however, it was extremely surprising that he re-signed considering the contract he agreed to was nowhere near the baseline he set for himself at the start of free agency. So, what exactly convinced him to return to the Colts?
Xavier Rhodes disclosed why he decided to re-sign with the Colts.
Speaking to the media for the first time since re-signing, Rhodes had nothing but positive things to say about his first year with the Colts, which included raving about his relationships with his coaches and teammates. Taking things a step further, the 31-year-old also acknowledged that Indy has a legitimate shot at competing for a championship.
"“I played well with the Colts (and) I got along with the players and the coaches at the same time, so it was a great bond for us. How I was able to see the potential of the team and camaraderie…how much potential this team has, to come back to it and try and strive to go to the Super Bowl again, I know we have the potential to do so.”“I was more than glad and happy to come back.”"
It seemed that Rhodes was headed for a lucrative contract after he rediscovered the form that helped make him one of the most feared cornerbacks in the league for a multi-year stretch.
However, when it came time to choose between potentially making more money elsewhere or continuing to thrive in the Colts’ zone-oriented defensive scheme, the decision was an easy one for the former first-round pick.
"“They just allow me to play my ball,” Rhodes continued. “Like I’ve said and like I’ve known before, I’ve been in the league eight years, I’ve played almost everything, it was just that they allowed me to be confident within myself, play myself, play football, be free and be myself – allowing me to just be confident and be strong.”"
If you take one look at the Colts’ 2021 schedule, you’ll understand why they felt retaining Rhodes was an absolute must this offseason. It’s a good thing his confidence is seemingly at an all-time high, because he’ll be lined up against some of the NFL’s most talented wideouts next season.
Nevertheless, for as much criticism as Ballard has received for his lack of incentive to sign high-profile free agents, it says a lot about the culture he’s built over the last few years that Rhodes, who’s still one of the league’s best CBs, was willing to re-sign for just $4.77 million.