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INDIANAPOLIS – One of Chris Ballard’s favorite sayings is that player acquisition is a ’12-month a year process.’
While March and April get the vast majority of attention when it comes to quality player acquisition, roster moves can take place around the calendar.
It’s more likely though for starters to be acquired in March or April.
But Ballard did his best Ryan Grigson/Mike Adams’ impression a few weeks back, with the signing of veteran safety Mike Mitchell.
At the age of 31, Mitchell wasn’t your typically available safety at that point of the offseason.
Not only has Mitchell come in and provided a needed body, with Clayton Geathers missing the past two games and Matthias Farley going on injured reserve, but he’s provided some timely playmaking punch to the back end of the defense.
“What I really like about Mike,” Frank Reich said after Mitchell’s 7-tackle, 2-turnover day against the Bills, “not only making plays on the field, but just the consummate team guy, a leader. He just oozes leadership right from the start. He walks in off the street and is leading, and leading by example, making plays and other ways as well.
“(He’s) been a big help and a big lift for our defense.”
Mitchell has had 14 combined tackles (the most for a defender not named Darius Leonard) in his 2 starts with the Colts.
He also recorded two very timely turnovers during the second quarter of this past Sunday’s blowout against the Bills, which earned him the AFC Defenisve Player of the Week Award, just two weeks after being signed.
It’s rare to see defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus crack a smile when asked about a player.
But he couldn’t hide it when the topic of Mitchell came up earlier this week.
“It’s been great to have Mike, just to visit with him, talk with him, the knowledge of the game and the way he studies the game, he’s really been a great addition,” the defensive coordinator says. “Chris did a great job of getting him and the scouting department had been on this guy for quite some time. It’s exciting to have that guy in the defensive backs room with all that experience but also with the entire defense, the way he interacts on the sideline, the way he interacts in practice, the way he studies during the course of the week. It’s just been a really good addition.
“When he’s played 10 years in the league and has the success he’s had, he’s walks in with credibility right away.”
By any measure, the Colts have already received more than they could have imagined when signing Mitchell on Tuesday, Oct. 9.
The fact that Mitchell started after just 3 practices, and having been with no team throughout the 2018 offseason, was a feat in itself.
But the playmaking has had the look of something Mike Adams gave the Colts during his three-year run in Indianapolis.
The Colts having Mitchell right now comes from some thanks to a weakened safety market, Chris Ballard maintaining communication with the veteran safety and an unfortunate injury situation arising.
Mitchell was due to make north of $5 million in 2018 when the Steelers decided to part ways him in March, heading into the final season of a 5-year deal.
As Mitchell weighed his next NFL stop, he witnessed safeties being devalued big time on the open market.
Eventually, Mitchell had to accept that the money wasn’t going to be there, so the fit had to be right.
After visits with the Bengals, Bears and Titans, offers for Mitchell eventually came in the $1.5-$2 million dollar range, but the role wasn’t what he wanted.
Being a third safety, at the age of 31, wasn’t what he was seeking in a 4th NFL stop.
Contact with the Colts (and Ballard), began in early September, says Mitchell.
Talks really picked up steam following the Colts’ loss to the Patriots back on Oct. 4.
With Geathers (the team’s starting safety opposite Malik Hooker) injuring his neck and suffering a concussion, plus Farley (the team’s No. 3 safety) heading to IR with a wrist injury, a massive need was there at safety.
The right fit was finally there for Mitchell, even if it meant playing at the league minimum ($915,00).
“I still feel I could play this game at an elite level,” Mitchell said of how his 9th NFL season ended with the Steelers. “Last year I played with a broken foot, so I knew I wasn’t playing to the best of my abilities.
“I just needed the opportunity to come out here and play and I knew I would be able to come out here and play. This opportunity was the right one. It was the opportunity to come in and play and that’s why Indy was the fit.”