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INDIANAPOLIS – We know the Colts will not have their hands tied cap wise next offseason.
In fact, the projected cap space of more than $125 million is tops in the NFL.
How much of that will be spent in trying to re-sign some of their own free agents?
Well, Chris Ballard had this to say on Monday about having such a substantial amount of cap space in 2019.
“This is one thing that I’ve been very consistent about since I walked in the door,” Ballard said on 1070 The Fan. “I knew we needed to build a core base of young talent here. And it’s easier to train your own. We want to be able to train our own players. Does that mean we’re against free agency? No. It does not, and I think we have some examples on our team with Margus Hunt, Al Woods, (Denico) Autry, Ryan Grant, (Matt) Slauson. We’ve gone out. Is it the A-level guys that the media and everybody writes about? No, but these are good football players that we signed and we thought we got at good value for our team. And you want to continue doing that. I think sometimes just spending money to spend money, that’s not always the smart thing to do. And when you do build your team up with your own guys, and they get to their second contracts and you begin to reward them, that’s when I think you’ll start to see some of that cap space disappear. Is there a time that we could go into free agency and we see a piece that we think fits and it fits culturally, fits from not only from a scheme perspective, but also from a character perspective? When you bring a guy into your locker room and you make him a highly-paid player, there’s a lot more that comes with that than just playing on the field. That means that guy needs to do everything right because he’s looked upon differently than the rest of the locker room.”
Let’s take a look more at Ballard’s internal decisions for guys heading into the final eight games of their respective contract situations:
Unrestricted free agents (age next season)
- CB-Pierre Desir (28): The one-year deal handed out by the Colts this past offseason has been a smart investment. Desir has ascended into a starting position, when the Colts go to their nickel looks. After battling injuries throughout his career, including a torn pec last year, Desir has been one of the healthier Colts in 2018. Another short-term contract would make sense for Desir, as the Colts try and see what their young corners can give them, too.
- WR-Ryan Grant (28): It’s been a pretty underwhelming start to Grant’s time in Indy. Early on, Grant was about the only consistent catcher for the Colts. But the plague of drops crept into him and then an ankle injury has cost him the last two games. The Colts need to upgrade at wide receiver, so extending Grant past the one-year contract you gave him in March shouldn’t be a slam dunk.
- TE-Ryan Hewitt (28): After trading Darrell Daniels on cut down day, the Colts were looking for a blocking presence from the tight end position. Hewitt has provided that. The Colts have really needed Hewitt with Jack Doyle missing 5 games. At one of the deeper positions on the roster, Hewitt probably is not viewed as a huge priority in the offseason, but bringing him into camp to compete for a roster spot isn’t the craziest idea in the world.
- DL-Margus Hunt (32): What a year it’s been for Hunt. The 2013 second-round draft pick has had a career season for the Colts. Back in 2017, the Colts originally signed Hunt to a two-year contract as he’s stuck around in both defensive systems the last two years. Normally, re-signing a defensive lineman at Hunt’s age isn’t the smartest move, but he’s a unique case study given his lack of football history. This guy didn’t start playing football until college, so he might not have the normal dip in his play as reaches the age of 32. Depending on how the Colts feel about their younger linemen up front, they could consider bringing Hunt back for versatility.
- S-Clayton Geathers (27): Unfortunately, injuries have once again flared up for the young safety. Health has always been the biggest question for Geathers and what has held him back from being a definite second contract guy with the Colts. Might Chris Ballard give Geathers a similar contract we saw handed out to Jack Mewhort last year? Still, it’s hard for the Colts to go into 2019 saying ‘Geathers is definitely going to be one of our starting safeties’ after the injury issues. Geathers did get back on the field Sunday, so hopefully he can stay healthy in the final eight games.
- OG-Mark Glowinski (27): One of the surprises in 2018 has been Glowinski climbing into a starting role and playing well at right guard. Glowinski has a strong resume though, as a former fourth-round pick and having 19 starts in Seattle. At the age of 27, Glowinski is still at a nice age to be a multi-year option for the Colts. This seems like a guy trending towards a re-sign in Indy.
- OT-Denzelle Good (28): Like Clayton Geathers, his other 2015 draft mate, Good has an uncertain future with the Colts. The tackle/guard option looked to be on his way to starting at right tackle this season. But injuries in August really hurt those chances. And then the extremely unfortunate passing of his brother has kept Good from dressing since starting in Week Four. You are always looking for line depth though, so maybe Good returns on a shorter team deal.
- LB-Najee Goode (30): The elder statesmen of such a young linebacker room has been much-needed from a leadership standpoint. But, on the field, the Colts have really phased out the SAM linebacker position, so Goode’s snaps have been limited. Maybe another one-year deal is in the cards for Goode, but the Colts definitely have young backers (not named Darius Leonard and Anthony Walker) that they would like to see more.
- WR-Dontrelle Inman (30): We saw last week why this coaching staff had so much trust in signing Inman. Like was said above with Ryan Grant, the Colts need to upgrade at receiver this offseason. It wouldn’t be shocking though if the Colts brought Inman back as a camp body.
- S-Mike Mitchell (32): It’s pretty darn rare to find October signings make the impact that Mitchell has had with the Colts. Right up there with his play on the field, which has been high level, the Colts have lauded the leadership they’ve received from Mitchell. Now, money is going to be a big determining factor in Mitchell’s future after he took a substantial pay cut to join the Colts in 2018. This could be a very interesting case for the Colts as they try to get younger on defense, but still not wanting to ignore the impact Mitchell made on, and off, the field.
- DT-Al Woods (32): All in all, the Colts have received two pretty solid (and durable) seasons from the veteran interior presence. There’s no definite answers to the future at that position though. Is Grover Stewart ready to be a full-time starter? If Stewart is, then 2018 might be the final year for Woods in Indianapolis.
- OG-Matt Slauson (33): No questioning the toughness for Slauson. The man played with two broken vertebrae in the second half of a loss to the Patriots. It was just a one-year deal for Slauson and the Colts. The leadership of Slauson was something this staff mentioned endlessly as a reason they wanted to bring him to Indy. Is that enough to earn another shorter contract at such an age, after back-to-back years on injured reserve in October?
- RB-Robert Turbin (29): One would think Turbin is going to need a strong end to the season if he wants to return to the Colts. Turbin has played in barely over a game for the Colts after his four-game suspension and is currently dealing with a shoulder injury. The Colts have three intriguing young backs that are all still under contract for several more years.
- OT-J’Marcus Webb (31): Let’s not forget that Webb actually started the season opener at right tackle. He’s been rehabbing quite a bit, with the Colts still having one other injured reserve to return candidate in 2018 (which might go to Joe Haeg). Now, like Slauson, you have to wonder where an older lineman fits into the Colts’ plans up front.
- K-Adam Vinatieri (46): Some thought Vinatieri should have earned a longer-term deal than the one-year contract he received back in February. Maybe we saw last week why Chris Ballard was hesitant. A 45-year-old body is still a 45-year-old body and now you have an injury question on Vinny. Still, Vinny continues to be very reliable. Even though he’s broken the NFL’s all-time scoring record, he’s expressed a desire to play a 24th NFL season.