Grading Colts 2023 free agent signings: Which moves did Chris Ballard get right?

From Gardner Minshew to Isaiah McKenzie, the Indianapolis Colts signed a number of free agents during the 2023 offseason. Let's see how those signings look now.
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Free agency is oftentimes one of the best ways for an NFL team to add talent and improve their roster. By addressing key positions of need with players who are a strong fit, teams can alter the direction of their franchise with one good offseason.

Colts general manager Chris Ballard is not known for being very aggressive in free agency, but he's also delivered some great players over the years. Denico Autry in 2018, Justin Houston in 2019, and Philip Rivers in 2020 were all valuable additions to those Indianapolis teams. Unfortunately, Ballard has also had a few misses so his record in free agency is not totally spotless.

During the 2023 offseason, Ballard once again added many new players across offense, defense, and special teams. Some members of the Colts' 2023 free agent class ended up making an immediate impact while others were more disappointing. Let's sort through the signings and grade how Ballard did on each.

Gardner Minshew (QB)

When Indianapolis inked a one-year deal with Gardner Minshew last March, the belief was that he would back up whoever the Colts selected with the fourth overall pick in the 2023 draft. The signing was widely praised and it's easy to see why. In Minshew, Ballard secured one of the best backup QBs in the league at an inexpensive price. On top of that, the situation was familiar to the veteran passer who had just spent the prior two seasons in Philadelphia, sitting behind another young QB (Jalen Hurts) and playing under Shane Steichen.

However, Minshew’s role evolved quickly when he took over as the starter after rookie QB Anthony Richardson went down with a season-ending injury in Week 5. Minshew ultimately made 13 starts, playing way more than anyone had anticipated. Despite being unexpectedly thrust into the spotlight, the former sixth-round pick made the most of the opportunity. Minshew finished the regular season with the 13th-best QBR in the league — better than C.J. Stroud and Trevor Lawrence — and led the Colts to the brink of playoff qualification.

It wasn’t all perfect of course. Minshew had his fair share of struggles with turnovers and accuracy, but his 2023 performance still far exceeded expectations. Ballard signed Minshew to be a security blanket and it proved to be a shrewd move.

Grade: A