Despite leading the league in cap space, Colts stay thrifty in free agency

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Heading into free agency, the Colts had the most cap space in the NFL, but General Manager Chris Ballard said he wouldn’t spend the money just because he had it. And he meant it.

After a flurry of moves across the NFL this week, the Colts still have by far the most cap space in the NFL. Calculating each team’s precise cap number can be a little tricky, but estimates are that the Colts currently have about $75 million to $77 million in cap space, the most in the league by more than $20 million.

Ballard made clear from the outset that he’s looking to build a team, and not a collection of stars, and that’s why he’s not spending a lot of money out of the gates in free agency.

We have a very strict criterion of what we want to bring in,” Ballard said. “We want players that want to get better, want to be great, want to be a part of the team, that are willing to sacrifice sometimes their individual stats for the betterment of winning and being a good teammate. If they fit into that criterion, absolutely they’ll fit in.”

Aside from signing wide receiver Devin Funchess, the Colts have prioritized extending their own players, including cornerback Pierre Desir and special teamer Chris Milton. Ballard is likely looking at spending some more money to extend some of the Colts’ players who become free agents after the 2019 season, including left tackle Anthony Costanzo, tight end Eric Ebron and linebacker Jabaal Sheard. The Colts showed last season that they have the nucleus of a good team, and they don’t think they need any big changes.

39 responses to “Despite leading the league in cap space, Colts stay thrifty in free agency

  1. Free agency is a little frustrating as a Colts fan under Ballard – but it is hard to argue with his track record of success.

    Last year we didn’t land any big-ticket guys that the fans thought we should go after like Andrew Norwell. Instead we targeted a cheaper under-achiever like Ebron and a rotational guy in Denico Autry; who were both tremendous signings in hindsight. Then we draft two All-Pros in Darius Leonard and Quenton Nelson.

    Ballard is playing the long-game. He knows if we hit on draft picks or sign guys that blossom in our system he will eventually have to pay them.

    Trust the Binder.

  2. They will take over the AFC within the next 2 years…Watch Out…Andrew Luck is Baaaaaaaack!!!

  3. I was hoping that the second guy to figure this out (Belichick was first) would be an NFC GM so that the Pats domination would continue. I guess we’ll have to deal with them every postseason again.

    Now 2 GMs will be on the playoffs every year while others continue to pay $100 million to 30 year old backup QBs.

  4. Free agency is a tricky proposition. No, you can’t buy a championship in the NFL, but you can’t stand pat either. If your not improving, some of your opponents certainly will.

  5. The choice of 2nd tier FA’s that might just be up and comers is theirs for the choosing. I’d love for the Vikes to keep Trae Waynes because he does fit those things that the Colts are looking for but I’m afraid they are going to have to sacrifice somewhere to get OL help. They’ll likely be forced to lose Waynes next year so they need to get what they can preferably from an AFC team.

  6. Pats fan here, I dislike the Colts for many reasons but I have to admit that they start to make a lot of sense, Ballard is moving smartly and is not trying to win the off-season like some others.
    The Grigson era is far behind, a good for Colts fans.

  7. Then he signed Funchess… a big waste of human space. Deals max is 13M … for Devin Funchess. Don’t throw the pen to him when its time to sign that contract. He may drop it.

  8. Just draft two more pro bowl/all pro linemen each year and everything will be great. That is the way to build a team. Have to make hay with rookie contract guys to overpay others or have them walk when someone else does.

  9. @Your Comment Will Be Deleted

    The same thing was being said about Ebron last year. I’d rather Ballard take a one year flyer on someone like Funchess than spend big money on someone who was a star in a different system. While Cam is a good QB, he’s nowhere near Lucks level. Add to that the fact that Funchess doesn’t have the pressure of being a WR1 in Indy, he’s going to be the guy running curls and underneath crossing routes to move the chains.

  10. Definitely a team on the rise. Luck’s talent shouldn’t be wasted with receivers like Funchess.

  11. This guy has done wonders fixing the mess left by Grigson. His thoughts on free agency sound good to me. No sense in signing a player if they aren’t all-in. That’s how you change the culture of the team. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Colts do great things in the next few years.

  12. Chris Ballard is the real deal. Saw the value of protecting his QB and built a solid OL. Put together a good defense. Minding the cap will keep them relevant for years. I believe Luck’s contract was 5 years and good through 2021. Lot’s of runway for this team. The philosophy of being a good teammate and wanting to win says it all. This organization has made a complete turn around – Irsay is no where to be heard, Ballard obviously knows how to build a team, and Frank Reich appears to be a really good HC. The future looks bright.

  13. That sounds great. All GM’s should follow that same criterion. But the one item I didn’t see on the list is “good football player”. That’s important too. Devin Funchess was a bad college player, and a bad pro player. That’s why he was available. I mean, I’ve seen the difference Frank Reich has made, and it’s as big a difference as I’ve ever seen with a coaching change, but don’t ask him for miracles.

  14. What a joke I would be a pissed of fan. This will guarantee that they will be on edge of getting too playoffs and def loose like they did last year. How bout spending some money on that defense. Crazy they have such a small window what exactly are you saving all that money for? You could have landed a stud and still been left with plenty. Thank god my jets spend money and it excites the fan base. You are a playoff team not a Super Bowl team. Woulda coulda shuda

  15. With the CAP, there used to be a minimum percent of the CAP that each team must spend or be in violation of the CBA. Has that been done away with?

    In the late ’90s the Bengals had signed all but one player and the NFLPA warned them that they were below the minimum and they had to give something like 6 million to the last guy signed, way above average for that position at that time, to get up to the minimum that year.

  16. To me that’s just smart business. They had the cap space to go out and make splashy moves in free agency but stayed patient and taking the long approach. Not many teams that go out and win free agency go and in turn win the Super Bowl. Spend smart $ get young hungrier players on lesser contracts.

    There is some kind of minimum cap space that every team is required to meet but meeting those minimums is very easily done. Just over pay for a player or two on one year contracts or even two or three pretend year deals where only the first year has guaranteed $ therefore parlaying that cap space a year into the future.

    Then next year the Colts will have huge cap space agin and instead of going out and signing other teams players they can keeping adding younger cheaper free agents and save their big money for their own players and pay their own. That is what he way a good front office should run things.

  17. I do hope we go after Jordy Nelson. I wanted Mathieu also but I trust Ballard and am not upset. Everybody trashed him for signing Ebron last year so he obviously knows what he is doing.

  18. About time we see a GM using reason instead of the bank. I see some real cap space issues coming for some of the “winners” of this year’s off-season. The Colts are on the right path.

  19. Yeah why don’t you ask Ted Thompson who also played the same approach with an extremely talented quarterback how that worked out. Two amazing years one Superbowl… now we’re rebuilding on the fly with veterans before that generational QB is gone forever

  20. rageviral says:
    March 16, 2019 at 8:07 am
    Funchess? I’ve seen offensive linemen that run and catch better than him.

    Let’s wait and see how he looks when he is not constantly adjusting routes, coming back for the ball, having to reach over the wrong shoulder, make adjustments in the air, etc. that were a necessary part of playing with an over rated QB who couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a boat.

    When judging a receiver, you occasionally need to take a peek at the person throwing him the ball.

  21. He’s smart for saving the money for Quentin Nelson and darias Leonard. Mayne next year they will sign more free agents, but also don’t be surprised to see some movement after training camp. Ballard always hits solid contributors on the cheap. Doing it right.

  22. thermanmerman99 says:
    March 16, 2019 at 11:39 am
    I do hope we go after Jordy Nelson.


    Nelson already signed with the 49ers

  23. dolphins4 says:
    March 16, 2019 at 10:08 am
    I hope they sign Jay Ajayi because he is a very good young running back.


    Who is an injury waiting to happen dating back to college at least…

  24. Ballard’s plan sound great on paper but somewhere along the line you go have to roll the dice and “go all in”–windows for players only stay open so long

  25. Not a Colts fan, but hey are going to be fun to watch in 2019, and I am unequivocally looking forward to seeing them play. Funchess should have a very solid year, and the offense should be very good. The D was pretty solid last year, so this should be a playoff team if they can stay healthy.

  26. WOW what a great move (IN THEORY!!!!)

    ask the Packers how well that has worked for them
    only reason they where a constant playoff contender was because the rest of their
    division was crap. Now that the Bears and Vikings are no longer push overs, they are having a hard time finishing second in the division.

  27. You know what, teams should be able to trade cap space just like draft picks. It would be completely bonkers but so much fun to watch and speculate. NFL would then rule 365 days a year.

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