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INDIANAPOLIS – Chris Ballard has never shied away from stating his love to build a team through the trenches.

His words continue to turn into action.

Ballard made a massive splash on Monday by trading the No. 13 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft to the San Francisco 49ers for defensive tackle DeForest Buckner.

The Colts are reportedly extending Buckner’s contact 5 years (through the 2024 season), hovering right around $20 million per year, making him the second highest paid defensive tackle in all of football (Aaron Donald is No. 1).

It’s a huge price for the Colts to pay.

But it goes to show you what Ballard thinks of Buckner, and the importance of the position he plays.

Buckner, who will turn 26 years old on Tuesday, comes to the Colts after four seasons in San Francisco.

The 6-7, 300-pounder was taken with the 7th overall pick in 2016 and has missed just 1 game in his entire NFL career.

In four years, Buckner has produced 28.5 sacks, 74 quarterback hits and 38 tackles for loss. He was a Pro Bowler in 2018 and a second-team All-Pro in 2019.

With the Colts, Buckner is likely going to be play the three-technique defensive tackle position, which is something Ballard holds in high regard and knew needed to improve.

“The 3-technique drives this thing,” Ballard said earlier this offseason when talking about his defense.

“It does. Every time I’ve been a part of this (4-3 defense), the 3-technique drives this.”

Ballard didn’t feel like the Colts had enough interior production from their defensive line last season.

At the Combine in February, Ballard noted what the 49ers had on their defensive line (“they were freakin’ good,” Ballard said) while continuing to point out his biggest roster building belief.

“I’m always going to be obsessed with the front,” the GM said. “I just believe that that’s how you win and that’s how you have sustained success over time. I believe in building from the inside out, I’ve said that from the day I walked through the door. That philosophy won’t change.”

Way too often in 2019 the Colts lacked interior pressure, allowing opposing quarterbacks to pick apart a struggling defense.

With Buckner now commanding attention in the interior, the Colts now have some options up front. Justin Houston is entering a contract year at one defensive end spot and just record his first double-digit sack season since 2014. Another step forward from the speedy Kemoko Turay could be opposite Houston. A look of Grover Stewart (on run downs) and Denico Autry (on pass downs) is how the Colts could use their other defensive tackle spot, next to Buckner. Young guys in Tyquan Lewis, Al-Quadin Muhammad and Ben Banogu are still in the mix.

Add it up, and the Colts have done what was a must this offseason—find a disruptive playmaker in the interior of the defensive line, who can produce at a high level, and also command attention to open up single teams for others up front.

In Indy, Buckner won’t have the benefit of studs Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead flanking him, to take some blocking presence away.

Still, having Buckner in Indy should open up more opportunities for Darius Leonard to run free with blockers unable to get to the second level, something that wasn’t there enough in 2019.

It was a very steep price for the Colts—contractually and draft pick wise—which goes to show you what the Colts think of the durable Buckner.

Not having the No. 13 overall pick all but removes the Colts from the top-end quarterback market for next month’s draft.

Whether it was spending the No. 6 overall pick on an offensive guard in 2018 or doing what Ballard did on Monday, the GM is sticking to his principles of trying to make sure not as much is on the plate of whoever is quarterbacking the Colts in 2020, and beyond.