Colts General Manager Chris Ballard enters the offseason in a rare spot.
He has an ascending team, and plenty of salary cap room to help make it better. But he also has a plan, as he tries to maintain the chemistry the Colts displayed this season, coming back from a 1-5 start to make the divisional round of the playoffs.
Via Mike Wells of ESPN.com, Ballard said finding cultural fits would be important as he figures out how to spend. He mentioned a game this season when former Colts wideout Reggie Wayne was being inducted into the team’s ring of honor, and saw former teammates Peyton Manning, Robert Mathis, Edgerrin James and Jeff Saturday there to see him.
“All the great players, and I just looked at them and I said, ‘You know what is consistent with those guys? They are good dudes, they are good guys, they are good teammates,'” Ballard said. “They connected, they all have relationships with each other. That resonated with me. In my mindset, it’s always something you want and you strive for, but to me, that really cemented it that day.
“I am looking over and I am saying that is what we want to be. I want to look up 15 years from now and we got 10-12 players and somebody going into the Ring of Honor and they all still got these connecting relationships . . . and they went through the struggle and had great success because of it.”
So while he has a pile of cap room (around $120 million), he’s also thinking ahead to the days when rookie stars such as Quenton Nelson and Darius Leonard will be needing extensions (which can’t happen for two more years).
“I think just because you have all this [cap] space, just look at the roster and look at the contracts that are going to be coming up over the next two- to three-year period and you are going to see — eventually what you would like to happen is you are paying your own guys,” he said.
Of course, he’s still going to spend. But it will be interesting to see on the other side of the spending whether his emphasis on character holds up, and whether there are guys they could certainly use who don’t end up there for reasons other than money.