INDIANAPOLIS – It’s rare to hear a person with the title of Chris Ballard make the public comments that he did on one of his free agents.
The free agent is Marlon Mack, a player that Ballard adores.
Ballard knows the complexities involved with Mack’s pending free agency.
This is a 1,000-yard rusher, who is not even 25 years old (will turn 25 on March 7th), yet is coming off a torn Achilles, which thrust new 1,000-yard rusher Jonathan Taylor onto the scene.
Take out the Achilles, and Mack would be one of the most sought after running backs this free agency.
Take out Taylor, and the Colts would have massive interest in Mack as a major priority.
“Marlon Mack’s (injury) broke my heart,” Ballard says about a player he drafted in the 4th Round of the 2017 Draft. “That sucked. That was hard. Really hard. And it was hard on him. But he’s so tough minded. I watched him work his butt off here all season to get back.
“Marlon Mack deserves a contract, unequivocally. He deserves a good contract. I don’t know if we are going to be able to do that here. Saying that, I’m not going to say that, ‘Marlon is not going to be back.’ Because I think he’s really special as a player and I could just see a backfield of Marlon, Jonathan (Taylor) and Nyheim (Hines) and (Jordan) Wilkins be really special. So I’m not going to discount it.”
It was that torn Achilles by Mack in the season opener which has totally altered his NFL future.
Despite Mack reaching the 1,000-yard mark in 2019, the Colts elected not to give him a contract extension.
Now, Mack enters FA lacking the 2020 resume of fellow free agent running backs Aaron Jones, Kenyan Drake, Gus Edwards and James Conner.
Gauging what an exact market will look like for Mack is hard to pin down.
With the injury situation, is Mack likely looking at a short-term, prove-it deal before cashing in on a longer-deal?
What about the Colts and their running back room moving forward?
Taylor certainly deserves to be viewed as a bellcow. Hines (a free agent in 2022) took strides as a runner in his third season and has still yet to miss a single practice or game in his NFL career. Wilkins (also a 2022 free agent) has been productive when called upon.
Does the fear of just one injury away from needing another running back have the Colts thinking they can make some room for Mack in their ‘21 plans?
Would Mack want to have a diminished role—with Taylor as the lead back—compared to what he had in 2018 and 2019?
“I think Marlon Mack is a great player and deserves what he has coming to him,” Ballard says. “And he’s even a better teammate, unselfish, everything you want.”
2021 Colts Free Agent Watches