INDIANAPOLIS — Comply with alongside.
The Indianapolis Colts have the NFL’s highest salary-cap area and have a necessity for a receiver. One of many NFL’s high receivers personally tweeted Tuesday that he want to be traded from the Pittsburgh Steelers. There’s additionally the operating again who did not play a snap in 2018 as a result of he was upset with those self same Steelers about his contract state of affairs.
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The Colts can have almost $120 million in cap area throughout free company subsequent month. Steelers receiver Antonio Brown needs out of Pittsburgh and operating again Le’Veon Bell is predicted to be carrying a unique uniform subsequent season.
It is human nature for followers to be craving for gamers like Brown and Bell. Expertise-wise, there isn’t any query Brown and Bell would make the Colts a greater staff. Brown led the NFL in landing receptions with 15 final season and has six straight seasons of no less than 1,200 yards receiving. Bell, who turns 27 on Feb. 18, has rushed for no less than 1,200 yards previously two seasons he is performed.
However expertise alone is not what Colts common supervisor Chris Ballard seems to be at in the case of assembling the roster. There’s expertise on all 32 NFL groups. That is why these gamers are within the league. Nonetheless, character carries a variety of weight with Ballard and all through the group. The chemistry contained in the locker room was one of many Colts’ greatest strengths final season, and the very last thing they wish to do is disrupt it by taking a danger on a participant.
The 31-year-old Brown’s status took successful when he reportedly skipped practices within the days main as much as Pittsburgh’s Week 17 recreation. He additionally reportedly had points with teammates.
Neither of these issues would fly inside Indy’s locker room.
The Colts will quickly have almost $120 million in cap area, however do not count on to see Le’Veon Bell or Antonio Brown land on their roster. Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports activities
Bell will doubtless come at a excessive worth — if the Steelers do not use the transition tag on him — after he skipped final season by not signing his $14.5 million franchise tender. The Colts are additionally excessive on their younger operating backs — Marlon Mack, Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins — who’re all nonetheless on their rookie contracts.
Ballard just isn’t towards signing free brokers or making a commerce, however the participant has to fulfill excessive requirements in these conditions.
“We are going to discover each avenue,” he mentioned. “If we expect from a free agent standpoint that we’re going to go get one of many high-priced [players] — now we have a really strict standards that he’ll have to suit. He’ll have to slot in the locker room. He’ll need to earn the excessive wage that he is making — not solely together with his play, however together with his impression and his presence throughout the locker room.”
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That strategy is one thing Ballard discovered whereas transferring up the front-office ranks in Chicago and Kansas Metropolis, and it is one he’ll proceed to evangelise so long as he is the overall supervisor of the Colts.
He might have made a knee-jerk transfer following a Four-12 season in 2017 by buying a variety of gamers — irrespective of the participant’s character or off-field baggage — to attempt to repair a flawed roster. He as an alternative remained affected person, targeted on the large image and did not deviate from his long-term imaginative and prescient. He stockpiled draft picks and signed free brokers like tight finish Eric Ebron and defensive lineman Denico Autry who match the mould of what they wish to set up in Indianapolis.
“Simply because it may not be who the media is writing about and who the followers are speaking about, that does not imply that man is not a very good participant,” Ballard mentioned. “One factor I am unable to [stress] extremely sufficient is our veteran management … Super, large veteran management. I imply simply large, unselfish, understood the work ethic and what we wished.”
Expertise helped the Colts overcome their 1-5 begin final season to achieve the playoffs for the primary time since 2014. But it surely was management contained in the locker room and a robust teaching employees that helped preserve everyone collectively when some groups may need crumbled after successful just one recreation via the primary six weeks of the season. The Colts gained 9 of their last 10 to complete 10-6, gained their first playoff recreation (in Houston) and noticed their season finish in Kansas Metropolis the next week.
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Because the clock ticks towards the beginning of free company on March 13, the Colts, led by quarterback Andrew Luck and , younger nucleus, will doubtless be a gorgeous vacation spot with their ample cap area. Simply know that Ballard and his employees will look deeper than expertise alone earlier than committing that kind of cash to a participant.
There is a max worth on every participant and there will not be any impulse procuring executed by Ballard, as a result of he does not desire a fast determination made in March to harm them subsequent season or down the highway as they proceed to construct the franchise.
“We are going to keep the course,” he mentioned. “In each different spot I’ve been in now we have participated in free company, too. I simply assume it is obtained to be the precise match. Plenty of circumstances, first the participant, we have to need one another, that is a part of it. He is obtained to wish to be right here after which we have to be keen to pay the quantity he needs after which he is obtained to suit the locker room. I feel simply because you’ve got all this area, simply take a look at the roster and take a look at the contracts which can be going to be developing over the following two- to three-year interval and you will see — ultimately what you want to occur is you might be paying your individual guys.”