The Indianapolis Colts have become a mess, but they have no one to blame but themselves. Indy doesn’t have a quarterback and has seen numerous top free agents sign with other teams.
But is there a method to the franchise’s madness? It seemed that way at first, but perhaps that’s not the case.
General manager Chris Ballard has been a conservative spender over the years. It’s mainly so he can pay players the team has drafted and developed like Darius Leonard and other stars who will eventually get paid (Quenton Nelson and Jonathan Taylor). However, at some point, it’s time to stop developing guys and win with the ones you have.
And during an offseason in which the Colts have the most cap space in the NFL, Indy has just been cheap. The strategy could now lead to more and more losses and missed playoff appearances, especially in a stacked AFC.
Writer’s note: This article was published before the Colts acquired Matt Ryan from the Atlanta Falcons.
The Colts have notoriously been conservative spenders
The Colts seem to have money to spend every offseason, but they never actually do anything with it. Last year, their most significant free-agency move was signing a 30-year-old tackle in Eric Fisher, who was coming off an Achilles injury. But they had the cash to do much more.
And when it has come to finding an answer at quarterback, they have been too afraid to risk their future.
According to Fox Sports’ Peter Schrager (h/t Pat McAfee), Matthew Stafford was willing to go to the Colts last offseason. However, they apparently didn’t do enough to acquire him from the Detroit Lions. Instead, Indy traded for Carson Wentz, a less proven talent.
Indianapolis then missed the playoffs with Wentz in 2021, while Stafford won a Super Bowl with the Los Angeles Rams.
Chris Ballard has proven he’s a great judge of talent. He has drafted Quenton Nelson, Darius Leonard, Jonathan Taylor, Michael Pittman Jr., Nyheim Hines, and other stars. But he is too afraid to make splash signings, which is continuing to hurt the Colts.
Indianapolis is still refusing to make big moves
This offseason has been much of the same for the Colts.
They first traded Wentz to the Washington Commanders. While moving on from the struggling quarterback needed to be done, Indy made the move before having an answer at the position. The team’s eagerness to not pay Wentz his $28.2 million salary could result in it taking a step back at the position with someone like Baker Mayfield or Jameis Winston.
However, the Colts also aren’t improving their other weaknesses despite having the most cap space in the NFL after the Wentz trade.
Indy desperately needs a left tackle following Anthony Castonzo’s retirement last offseason. But it doesn’t even appear to be in on the Terron Armstead sweepstakes.
The Colts also need a wide receiver to help whoever plays quarterback next year. But Allen Robinson II signed with the Los Angeles Rams, Christian Kirk signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Detroit Lions signed DJ Chark Jr., JuJu Smith-Schuster went to the Kansas City Chiefs, Amari Cooper is on the Cleveland Browns, and the Tennessee Titans traded for Robert Woods.
So, what are the Colts doing with all their money? They have re-signed a couple of their own guys, and they traded for Yannick Ngakoue, but they could be doing a lot more.
A lot more.
If Indy doesn’t start spending money soon, the team could be on the brink of becoming cheap losers.
The Colts are on the brink of becoming cheap losers
There’s no way around it: The AFC has improved while the Colts haven’t.
Every team in the AFC West has a chance to make the playoffs, and the Browns and Cincinnati Bengals look like they will go toe-to-toe for the AFC North title. So, Indy will likely have to win the AFC South if it wants to make the postseason.
But the Colts haven’t done anything to ensure that.
According to ESPN’s Field Yates, the NFL’s highest free-agency spenders have improved their win totals by three or more games each of the last six seasons. Indy is near the bottom of free-agency spending so far this offseason, despite having so much cash, while its AFC South foes, the Jaguars and Tennessee Titans, are both in the top five.
That needs to change.
Chris Ballard needs to start making moves for the Colts sooner rather than later. Until then, he is just proving to be an overpaid scout.