There are a ton of questions surrounding the Colts this off-season. What should they do with Carson Wentz? Who is available at quarterback if they choose to move off of Wentz? Who are some actual playmakers on offense aside from Jonathan Taylor? Where is the pass rush? Will they sign Quenton Nelson to a contract extension? What’s the status at left tackle? Are T.Y. Hilton and Jack Doyle going to retire? Those are just some of the questions this off-season and it may be impossible to answer them all by the time September rolls around. The man that will be charged with having to try and answer these questions is GM Chris Ballard and despite just being rewarded with a contract extension last summer, there is a ton of pressure on him to get the rig back on the road after a deflating finish to the season that saw the Colts miss out on the postseason.
If Chris Ballard is going to try an answer as many of these questions as possible this off-season he has got to change his approach to roster construction. Period. End of story. His careful management of the salary cap, his reluctance to trade up in the draft, his cautious approach to free agency, it hasn’t put the Colts any closer to capturing a Lombardi trophy. It may have actually pushed them farther from it. Whereas teams like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Los Angeles Rams, the last two Super Bowl winners, have adopted the “all chips in” approach that owner Jim Irsay shouted from outside his blaring jet engine a little over a month ago.
Ballard has been notoriously stingy when it comes to free agency and instead has wanted to reserve cap space to reward players within the organization with extensions. A worthy cause, but when you see who Carson Wentz was throwing to this year did it at any point seem like a wide receiver group that struck fear into opponents? Hardly. Michael Pittman Jr. is a solid player. Is he a future No. 1 wide receiver? He could be or he could be a dynamic No. 2 that can complement guys like Davante Adams, Allen Robinson, Chris Godwin, Mike Williams, Odell Beckham Jr., etc. The problem is if the Colts want to have any of those guys they are going to have to pony up and open the check book. That could be an issue considering Ballard has not only been unwilling to spend on free agent wide receivers but also saw this past season’s group of Colts wide receivers and thought they were more than adequate.
It’s that kind of tunnel vision that forced the Colts to ride Jonathan Taylor and Carson Wentz to focus the majority of his throws on Pittman. Look at the two offenses that just played in the Super Bowl. The Rams had Cooper Kupp, Odell Beckham Jr., Van Jefferson, Tyler Higbee, Sony Michel and Cam Akers to help Matthew Stafford and that’s not even counting Robert Woods and Darrell Henderson Jr, who were both injured the majority of the season. The Bengals, despite a porous offensive line, have given Joe Burrow plenty of weapons in Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Joe Mixon and Tyler Boyd for years to come. Both teams elevated their offenses with free agency and smart drafting. The Colts spent their first two draft picks in 2021 on defensive line help, yet ranked in the bottom third of the league in sacks and are once again looking for edge rushing help this off-season.
Chris Ballard has a full plate to try and digest and he’s not going to get through it without re-evaluating the way he approaches the roster. His answer regarding the wide receiver group in his end of season press conference is already showing signs that he isn’t ready to make changes to his approach, which means the Colts could once again be on the outside looking in when the playoffs come around in the winter. If that’s the case, Ballard may be on the outside looking in on West 56th Street.
On Wednesday’s edition of Kevin & Query the guys debated the Colts biggest needs and how Ballard has approached things. Click the link below and be sure to listen to Kevin & Query every weekday morning from 7-10 on 93.5 & 107.5 The Fan!