INDIANAPOLIS — Nobody in the NFL will have more salary cap space to spend next offseason than the Indianapolis Colts at about $120 million.
So what should the priorities be for general manager Chris Ballard?
First and foremost, spend more money on the defense. This season’s roster distribution saw $88.7 million spent on offense, $39.7 million on defense and $4.8 million on special teams, according to overthecap.com.
The Colts, perhaps more than anything else, need guys who can cover in the secondary. They’ve been forced to play a lot of zone and have blitzed less than any other NFL team because leaving their cover guys in one-on-one coverage often spells trouble.
Ideally, a strong pass rush means opponents have less time to throw and settle for more underneath stuff. That’s what the Colts (6-6) have got by on at times this season.
The Colts are 11th in total defense and 15th in points allowed, better than what many might have expected coming into this season. They also are the only defense in the league to come up with a turnover in each game.
But Ballard knows he needs more playmakers. This is has to be his No. 1 priority entering the offseason.
Second, re-sign at least three veterans who have proven themselves deserving this season. Three that make the most sense are guard Mark Glowinski, defensive end Margus Hunt and kicker Adam Vinatieri.
Glowinski has been solid since getting the starting nod due to injuries. He won’t cost much and he’s graded out better than solid first-round rookie guard Quenton Nelson, according to Pro Football Focus.
Hunt finally earned the chance to be a full-time starter this season and has made 12 tackles for loss, which ties for eighth best in the NFL. He, too, won’t break the bank, and can play end or inside at tackle.
Vinatieri turns 46 later this month, but he’s still “Mr. Clutch.” There’s nobody you’d rather have to make a kick with a game on the line.
Last, add free agents for the right price at need positions to bolster competition and keep players pushing to the maximum to earn playing time. Ballard will undoubtedly want to draft players first, but free agency starts before the NFL draft. He can’t sit back and wait.
He’s going to draft another wide receiver or two because the Colts didn’t get what they expected out of No. 2 wideout Ryan Grant. So it makes sense to add a proven veteran who can make plays. Do that and the Colts won’t need to rush a young rookie into the lineup until he’s ready.
As stated at the outset, defense should still come first. That’s why adding veterans in free agency makes sense, guys like current defensive end Jabaal Sheard, who might be a bit pricy but are solid. Sheard has been one of the Colts’ best pass rushers since arriving in 2017.
Every NFL team can always use more pass rushers as well as cover guys. They’re hard to find, which is why Ballard would be wise not to just rely on drafting players for those positions. Cover your bets and get a few veterans who already know what they’re doing as pros.