The Indianapolis Colts had a whopping $122.4 million available in salary cap space heading into this offseason. Many analysts projected the Colts to be big spenders, to compliment a team that went to the AFC divisional game last season. While they were right on that they did spend a lot, they were wrong on where they would spend it.
Ballard has gotten a few pickups on the free agent market outside of the Colts organization; (WR Devin Funchess, pass rusher Justin Houston, and RB Spencer Ware come to mind). That total money was $25.3 million off this year’s cap hit. But how does that total ‘big’ spending? Frankly, it doesn’t. But why are the Colts now sitting on an estimated $44 mil cap space (as of this article)?
Ballard has been preaching about rewarding your own, and building ‘in-house’. That doesn’t necessarily mean only drafting your own, and spending it all on them. It also means getting the right guy’s, no matter where they come from, to fit the personnel you want and reward them for producing in your scheme. This is Cris Ballard’s 3rd year, and he has been doing just that this offseason.
There were quite a few players Ballard, and his team of scouts, have grabbed on the open market the previous 2 years, and many of which have produced far beyond what they did at their previous teams. Below are the examples of where Ballard has hit on, and subsequently rewarded, outstanding play from these type of acquisitions.
The first big extension given for this season was guard, Mark Glowinski. After being released from Seattle, Glowinski came to the Colts and played in the place of Matt Slauson after his injury to his back. Mark did an outstanding job and was rewarded with a 3-year extension, which has a 2019 cap hit of $3.3 mil, and a signing bonus of $4.2 mil.
Next big extension was DT Margus Hunt. Margus came over from the Bengal’s in 2017. He was thought mostly as a special team player, whose specialty was blocking kicks. He quickly proved more vital than that, becoming a starting DT/DE, and a real force on the defensive line. His play earned him a 2-year extension, that had a 2019 cap hit of roughly $5 million.
Then there is CB Pierre Desir, who many fans thought would sign elsewhere, after being allowed to hit the open market, to test the waters. In the end, Desire chose to come back to Indy, and sign a 3-year contract, with a 2019 cap hit of $9 million.
Another one left to test the market was safety Clayton Geathers. After time looking for suitors, He signed again with the Indianapolis Colts on what many perceive as a one year prove it deal, worth $3 million on the 2019 cap.
In the past two weeks, Indy has been really busy signing these type of players. Punter Rigoberto Sanchez and long snapper Luke Rhodes has signed extensions with 2019 cap hit’s of $3 million, and $720k respectively.
The latest in this months extension extravaganza is nickel cornerback Kenny Moore II. After being released from the Patriots in 2017 as a UDFA, Ballard signed him on. He subsequently turned in an outstanding year in 2018 as the Nickel back and was rewarded with a reported 4-year deal. Many estimate this contract somewhere in the range of $40 million total. Before details of the contract are revealed, right now the Colts are sitting on $54 million cap space. I estimate with the signing bonus, Moore’s 2019 cap hit could indeed reach $15 million. Based on the previous extension’s having similar front-loaded contract’s, that seem to eat mostly this year’s cap, and freeing up future cap spend.
So indeed, this would put the Colts current cap space around $39 million, which is a total 2019 spend of around $83 million(give or take). That is a HUGE amount to spend in a single year, to solidify the future of this organization. But in doing so, Ballard has kept those that have produced for the team, and rewarded them in turn. This send’s a great message to the locker room. Players know that if they put forth the effort, and play well on the field, they will be rewarded in turn for their efforts. This raises the morale of a team and allows them to play at their best all season without worrying about where they might be the next year.
There are still player’s many believe are deserving of an extension. Ballard has already stated the Colts indeed intend to activate center Ryan Kelly’s 5th-year option. But do not be surprised that if Kelly performs well early in 2019, he too may be a recipient of one of those long term extensions by mid-season.