History shows it’s time for the Colts to spend money

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - SEPTEMBER 12: Indianapolis Colts GM Chris Ballard (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - SEPTEMBER 12: Indianapolis Colts GM Chris Ballard (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images) /

Recent trends show the Indianapolis Colts will immediately benefit if they are big spenders in free agency.

Monday, March 14, is the start of legal tampering in the NFL. On Wednesday, the new league year will officially begin and free agents will be able to sign wherever they want.

No team is set up better for free agency than the Indianapolis Colts. After trading Carson Wentz and his entire contract to Washington, Indy has nearly $70 million in cap space, by far the most in the league.

In recent years, however, the Colts have entered the offseason with a good amount of cap space but they don’t have much to show for it. Indy hasn’t gone on any big-spending sprees or landed any top free agents recently.

If Chris Ballard and Indianapolis have been observing the league, that should change this offseason. The past few years have shown that top free-agency spenders immediately benefit. It’s time for the Colts to follow suit.

Colts need to join recent free agency trend

As shown in the tweet, whichever team is the top spender wins at least three games the next season. On average, these teams win at least five more games.

Indianapolis was 9-8 in 2021. Adding the minimum of three wins puts Indy at 12-5; adding the average of five wins gives the Colts a 14-3 record. Either of those records would be extremely good and would mean that Indianapolis is one of the top teams in the NFL.

So how does Indy get there? Spend money, something the team hasn’t done a good job of in recent years.

In the five years of the Ballard era, the Colts have left a lot of money on the table in free agency. In 2017, Ballard’s first offseason, Indy had around $55 million in cap space and committed nearly $94 million to 16 free agents.

The Colts haven’t come close to those numbers in the other four offseasons. In 2018, Indy had a little over $72 million and spent $50 million.

In 2019, Indianapolis had a league-high $106 million but only spent $43 million. In 2020, the Colts had the second-most cap space with $85 million. They spent $36 million in free agency.

Last offseason, 2021, Indy had a little over $63 million in cap space and spent just under $44 million in free agency.

All this is to show, there’s been a clear trend for the Colts during the Ballard era: Indy typically has some of the most cap space but is usually among the lowest spenders.

That likely explains why it seems like Indy is addressing the same issues every offseason, it never commits to the best options which are usually expensive.

For Indy to change its fate, it has to stop saving money and taking cheaper routes. If the goal is to improve and compete for a Super Bowl, the Colts are going to have to open their wallet.