INDIANAPOLIS – Do not fall for the narrative that has seeped into the national media over the last week.
Yes, the Colts do have some important contract extensions on the horizon, but that is not what is restricting them from spending a cap space number on outside free agents that ranks right up there with anyone in the NFL (currently around $30 million according to OverTheCap).
If the Colts wanted, they could still hand out some notable contracts to outside free agents this offseason, and still have more than enough cap space to extend the likes of Darius Leonard and Braden Smith later this year.
Instead though, one of Jim Irsay’s favorite attributes about Chris Ballard is again at play.
“I think the great thing that Chris does is he walks away from deals, and sometimes your best deals are the ones you don’t make,” Irsay says. “He has that sort of discipline. He’ll go to a certain point, but we’ll talk and we’ll talk in great detail on where we’re at and more often times than not I might be saying, ‘Hey, maybe we put a sweetener in there or something.’ And he says, ‘No, let’s stay where we are. That’s what this deal should be.’
“I really give him a lot of credit because believe me, for general managers it’s very hard to find a guy like that who is really disciplined when you’re right at that 11th hour and trying to pull off a big trade and you want to do it and your head coach wants you to do it and your owner wants you to even do it but you say, ‘No, let’s stay pat, we’ll be OK.’ I think that’s part of what makes him a great general manager.”
Irsay does not hide his excitement and appreciation for Ballard’s extremely prudent approach to this part of the offseason.
“I think Chris Ballard does an incredible job of finding ways to fill those holes the right way,” Irsay says. “In other words, also protecting the cap so you don’t get in a precarious situation down the road.
“I feel also very confident that as the time goes along, better deals come along that you can get guys done and fill some holes.”
The Owner acknowledges that the Colts have holes still to be filled this offseason. He has stressed the desire to get more “dynamic players” on the offensive side of the ball, stating he was pleased with how the defense stepped up in key moments last season.
When asked if the pandemic has forced the Colts to be more frugal with their spending, Irsay pushed back against such a notion.
“I’ve looked at it as an opportunity to make sure we keep our standard of excellence right where it’s always been,” Irsay says. “As an owner sometimes if you go out of pocket on something to make sure you have that sort of level of commitment and greatness and everyone in your organization feels that, that’s really important to me. I really love to win, maybe I just hate to lose too much (laughing). I’m in it to win football games and I’m going to do everything I can in my power to make that happen. So it’s never going to be a question of, ‘Are the Colts committing enough dollars to winning football games?’ That’s never going to be the question. We’re always going to be out there trying to do everything we can for greatness on the field.
“At the same time, that’s still managing with the cap…one of the most important things is signing your great players that are going into their second contracts. That’s something that is critical, and we did that in the era before with Reggie (Wayne) and Marvin (Harrison) and Peyton (Manning) and Dallas (Clark) and the list goes on – Tarik Glenn, Jeff Saturday. We always have a focus on that and making sure we don’t get an imbalance and that takes us by surprise. That’s really important. But then it’s going out and being wise and using free agency, trades to the best of your ability to do that. Just look at the DeForest Buckner trade and him coming in here and us signing him compared to when we tried to make that move with Corey Simon and that just didn’t quite work out. Chris has done a really great job I think on limiting big mistakes that can come back and haunt us cap wise.
“We’re going to be out there trying to do everything we can to win and through this pandemic I think it’s an important opportunity to go out there and really help the community in any way you can and help your franchise shine. It’s a good opportunity to show what the Colts are about. That’s important to me.”
Retaining your own obviously includes Leonard and Smith, who both are in contract years this coming season. Extending them both later this year makes plenty of sense.
The need to give Nelson a second contract isn’t necessary until at least next offseason (with the team having a 5th year option on him for the 2022 season).
Again, the financial handicaps for giving out extensions to Leonard and Smith isn’t what is holding back Ballard this offseason from making additional moves to go along with retaining Xavier Rhodes and T.Y. Hilton.
It remains his approach when it comes to business during the month of March.