In recent years, the Indianapolis Colts haven’t been ultra-aggressive in free agency. The team usually has a lot of cap space, but there’s a reason general manager Chris Ballard has developed a reputation for being cheap in free agency. He just simply doesn’t agree with the philosophy of engaging in the free agency frenzy and overpaying guys on day one.
That's why the Colts haven’t had many massive free agency acquisitions in recent years. However, throughout the history of the franchise, the team has signed plenty of free agents, and a lot of them have turned out to be terrific signings. But, who was the best? Who was the greatest free agency signing in Colts history?
Bryan DeArdo, in a recent piece for CBS Sports, took on the challenge of answering that; not just for the Colts, but for all 32 teams. For Indianapolis, DeArdo went all the way back to when the franchise was in Baltimore, naming Johnny Unitas as the greatest free agency signing in team history.
Johnny Unitas named greatest free agency signing in Colts history
This can be viewed in one of two ways. Either Johnny Unitas was just so great that it’s hard to have a better signing than that or Indianapolis needs to be more active in free agency. DeArdo did name Adam Vinatieri as the best free agent signing since the franchise moved to a Indy, but Unitas took the top spot.
DeArdo’s reasoning for going with Unitas was simple: he was “the NFL's greatest quarterback during the league's first 50 years.” DeArdo detailed how Unitas found his way to the Colts, and quickly became the best quarterback in the league, leading Baltimore to three NFL championships and a Super Bowl victory.
Johnny Unitas spent 17 seasons with the Colts and made the Pro Bowl in 10 of those seasons. He finished his time with the franchise throwing for 39,768 yards and 287 touchdowns. He, of course, is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Although it was a long time ago, Unitas will probably remain the best free agent signing in team history for a long time. It’s really hard to find a free agent that will be around long enough to be great for that long.