The Indianapolis Colts are searching for their first division crown since 2014, and ending that drought became all the more difficult over the weekend when the Tennessee Titans acquired superstar receiver Julio Jones in a blockbuster trade.
While the loss of offensive coordinator Arthur Smith, who was ironically hired as the Falcons’ new head coach this offseason, will hurt, the Titans would be hard-pressed not to have an efficient offense that flaunts a trio of Jones, AJ Brown and Derrick Henry.
When you consider that Jones could’ve been the Colts’ prized acquisition for as little as a second- and fourth-round draft pick, fans have every right to be incensed.
Though the wound wouldn’t be as traumatic had Jones landed outside of the division or conference, fans must be annoyed that Ballard once again hesitated (or didn’t even consider) making “the big move.”
And for all the Ballard apologists out there claiming he wanted to maintain the Colts’ financial flexibility, all it would’ve taken was restructuring someone’s contract for them to be able to absorb Jones’ salary for next season.
Why did Chris Ballard not pay for Julio Jones?
We know Ballard gave up a conditional second-rounder (that will likely morph into a first assuming Carson Wentz exceeds expectations in 2021) and a third-rounder to acquire the former No. 2 overall pick, but what reason does he have to hoard draft picks?
At this point, the Colts’ championship window is wide open. Their young pieces and marquee talents are ready to win now. However, this roster is really lacking in the veteran department and we all know how vital experience is come playoff time.
That obviously isn’t to say that acquiring Jones would’ve made Indy the prohibitive title favorites. Only the Chiefs and Bucs fall under that category. However, doing so would’ve boosted the Colts’ championship odds dramatically and all it would’ve cost was second- and fourth-round draft picks and some cap space.
It’s not like we’re talking about multiple first-rounders, people. If the Colts didn’t want to meet those demands, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. The only purpose draft picks will serve for Indianapolis at this point is depth. And they have plenty of that.
Look at the Colts’ roster and try naming a position that doesn’t have starters lined up for the foreseeable future. Other than cornerback and maybe left tackle, there aren’t many convincing arguments. In other words, Indianapolis has zero reason to stockpile draft capital for as long as this current core is together.
As for the cap argument, we understand extensions are coming for the likes of Darius Leonard, Quenton Nelson and Braden Smith. However, those deals likely won’t kick in until next season, which is also when the cap will skyrocket once the NFL’s new television deals come into play.
So, yeah, Ballard easily could’ve met Jones’ price tag. Don’t let someone try to convince you otherwise. The fifth-year GM isn’t getting off that easy here, especially after Jones landed smack dab in the middle of the division.