Given their talent at quarterback, running back, wide receiver and the offensive line, the Indianapolis Colts figure to have one of the most balanced offenses in the NFL in 2021.
While the success and overall ceiling the group will hinge on the play of Carson Wentz, if he manages to rediscover his confidence, we like to think it has best-in-the-league potential.
After all, the only piece the Colts are missing on offense is a superstar receiver. With all due respect to TY Hilton, he doesn’t belong in that category, especially considering his extensive injury history and his age (he’ll turn 32 years old in November).
Taking that into account, it’s really no surprise the Colts have been pegged as a potential destination for Julio Jones, who’s being actively shopped by the Falcons. Predictably enough, these rumors flared up again in a recent piece by Jeff Schultz of The Athletic.
As compelling as picturing Jones in an Indianapolis uniform is, we can’t help but feel like these rumors are giving fans false hope. What makes us say that? Well, the inevitable contract extensions for Darius Leonard, Quenton Nelson and Braden Smith come to mind.
Colts fans shouldn’t get excited by the Julio Jones trade rumors.
Some sites claim the Colts have $17.8 million in cap space, but they haven’t yet accounted for Eric Fisher, who signed a one-year, $9.4 million deal, and his resulting cap hit. If our calculations are accurate, that would leave Indianapolis with just $8.4 million in remaining cap space.
When you consider Jones will account for a $23.05 hit against the cap, how could the Colts possibly absorb his contract? They couldn’t, especially since the likes of Leonard and Smith, who don’t have that extra fifth year on their rookie deals (like Nelson) since they were second-round picks, need to be signed before the start of next season.
If not, the Colts will run the risk of them testing free agency next offseason. While they could technically reach an agreement in the middle of the season, negotiating smack in the middle of a potential playoff hunt would be a colossal distraction, and nobody (including the players) wants that burden hanging over their heads when winning should take precedence.
Let’s put it like this: for as adept as general manager Chris Ballard is when it comes to managing the salary cap, not even he can brainstorm a loophole that would allow him to extend Indy’s homegrown stars AND trade for Jones all the while absorbing his cap hit.
Not to mention the Falcons will likely demand a bevy of draft capital in return for the All-Pro talent, and Ballard has a long history of erring on the side of caution in that regard unless he’s absolutely desperate at a certain position…like he was with Wentz earlier this offseason.
When you consider that the Colts have a deep receiving corps with Hilton, 2020 second-rounder Michael Pittman Jr, breakout candidate Parris Campbell and the underrated Zach Pascal, do they really need to paralyze themselves financially by trading for Jones? Probably not.
This would be an entirely different conversation if Leonard, Nelson and Smith didn’t deserve top-of-the-market money, but that obviously isn’t the case. Each player has the potential to reset the market for their respective positions, and their futures should be the Colts’ primary focus.