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INDIANAPOLISIt’s time to feel the return.

The decision was called ‘easy’ by general manager Chris Ballard.

That’s how much DeForest Buckner’s presence means to the Indianapolis Colts.

“There is no question that on the d-line, you know I’m driven by it,” Ballard says. “You know we have to be great there. So I’m looking at the addition of Buckner, how it’s really going to impact everybody else. I think it’s going to have a big impact and I think he’s a pretty special player but also a special person. He’s going to be a great addition and it will be fun to watch that.”

Not even valuable resources like the 13th overall pick, or more than $100 million in cap space, had the Colts thinking twice about trading for Buckner.

The Colts gave up a lot for Buckner.

Now, it’s about reaping the returns from the 25-year-old defensive tackle.

In 2019, Buckner earned second-team All-Pro status for the first time in his career.

He finished the season with 7.5 sacks, 9 tackles for loss and 14 quarterback hits, with a disruptive presence in the Super Bowl impressing Ballard and the Colts.

As a member of the Colts, the expectation for Buckner is continued All-Pro production, with those numbers not dipping at all.

Top 2019 Defensive Tackles

-Aaron Donald (Rams): 12.5 sacks, 20 tackles for loss, 24 quarterback hits

-Cameron Heyward (Steelers): 9 sacks, 11 tackles for loss, 23 quarterback hits

-Chris Jones (Chiefs): 9 sacks, 8 tackles for loss, 20 quarterback hits

-Grady Jarrett (Falcons): 7.5 sacks, 12 tackles for loss, 16 quarterback hits

-DeForest Buckner (49ers): 7.5 sacks, 9 tackles for loss, 14 quarterback hits

At the age of 25, Buckner is the youngest of those defensive tackles, with the Colts believing that prime years are ahead for the 6-7, 300-pounder.

Achieving those numbers put up by the likes of Donald, Heyward, Jones and Jarrett won’t be easy, especially with the Colts having nowhere near the defensive line talent around Buckner, like he had in San Francisco.

Not only is the individual disruption necessary from Buckner, his value will also be felt all over the entire defensive unit.

Before Buckner’s arrival, the Colts have been consistently one of the better run defenses in the league under Matt Eberflus.

The same cannot be said for their pass defense.

It’s that part of the game where Buckner needs to bring a commanding presence.

Buckner muddying up the middle of pockets, thus disrupting the timing for opposing quarterbacks, is something the Colts have desperately lacked in recent seasons.

The last time a Colts defensive lineman earned first-team All-Pro status was 2013 (Robert Mathis).

And 1976 was the last time a defensive tackle of the Colts (John Dutton) held the same honor.

Buckner needs to end those streaks.

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