INDIANAPOLIS — Keeping their own.
That’s Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard’s mentality when it comes to free agency. Yes, players will leave for more money, and there are some players that just don’t fit in the team’s plans going forward. But if Ballard believes a player’s talent and personality fit what they’re looking for, he will do his best to re-sign him.
“You are rewarding the guys in the locker room who have done the right things for you,” Ballard said. “I had some exit interviews with our players, ‘Look I want you to do what’s best [for you]. Do we want you back with the Colts? Absolutely we would love you back.’ But that doesn’t mean he is going to be back. Sometimes somebody might make him an offer that exceeds ours and I get it. Good for his family. It stinks for us if we lose the player, but we place a value on every guy … and we are going to be very disciplined in that regard.”
Ballard started the process of rewarding players when the Colts recently re-signed veteran kicker Adam Vinatieri and offensive lineman Mark Glowinski more than six weeks before the start of free agency on March 13. That leaves 11 other unrestricted free agents on the roster. The Colts have $120 million in salary-cap space to work with, but it’s shaping up to where they probably don’t have to overspend on any players they want to bring back.
Receiver Dontrelle Inman worked his way into a prominent role with the Colts in 2018. AP Photo/Michael Conroy
Dontrelle Inman, wide receiver
2018 stats: 28 receptions, 304 yards, 3 TDs (4 starts)
Why he’s a keeper: Inman went from being a player without a team through the first six weeks of the season, to signing with the Colts in Week 7, to becoming their second most reliable true wide receiver behind T.Y. Hilton by the end of the season. It didn’t take long for Inman to surpass Chester Rogers and Ryan Grant. Inman is 30, but his familiarity with coach Frank Reich and offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni helps him. Having Inman as a third or fourth receiver means the Colts will have a solid receiving group next season.
Najee Goode, linebacker
Why he’s a keeper: Goode’s stats don’t scream that he needs to be re-signed — especially for much money — but his value goes beyond the stat sheet. He’s a veteran on what is a relatively young linebacker group. His leadership and experience of winning a Super Bowl with Philadelphia will carry some weight on a team that’s hoping to take another step next season.
Clayton Geathers, safety
2018 stats: 61 tackles (12 starts)
Why he’s a keeper: Geathers is the Colts’ most versatile safety because he can also play a hybrid linebacker role if necessary in defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus’ scheme. Geathers’ problem has been an inability to stay healthy. He has yet to play a full 16 games during his four-year career, but Ballard values Geathers, which means it wouldn’t be surprising if the Colts re-sign him at a cheaper cost than if he had found a way to stay healthy. “I got emotional with Clayton after the [Kansas City playoff] game, because I love him,” Ballard said. “I love everything Clayton Geathers stands for. I watched a guy every week fight his tail off to get ready to play.”
On the fence
CB Pierre Desir
2018 stats: 60 tackles, 1 Int (12 starts)
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Why he’s a keeper: Desir showed flashes at times during the season, like playing a significant part in limiting Houston’s DeAndre Hopkins to a combined nine catches and 73 yards over the game in December and the teams’ playoff matchup. Desir could land a significant pay increase, but it might have to come elsewhere with the Colts being high on fellow cornerbacks Kenny Moore and Quincy Wilson.
Ryan Grant, wide receiver
2018 stats: 35 receptions, 334 yards, 1 TD (10 starts)
Why he won’t be back: Grant signed with the Colts with a significant chip on his shoulder after the Baltimore Ravens said he failed his physical, leaving him without a team, last offseason. Grant spent time as the No. 2 receiver during offseason workouts, but his time at that position didn’t last long because of inconsistent play and injuries.
Mike Mitchell, safety
2018 stats: 28 tackles, 1 Int (4 starts)
Why he won’t be back: Injuries at safety caused the Colts to sign the veteran Mitchell during the regular season. He brought experience and leadership to the secondary, especially for Wilson. Mitchell was even AFC Defensive Player of the Week once, but he will be 32 in June and there might not be a place for him in the secondary.
Margus Hunt, defensive lineman
2018 stats: 30 tackles, 5 sacks (15 starts)
Why he won’t be back: Hunt, who had been known more for his special teams play than his play on the defensive line, had a breakout season playing on the inside and outside on what ended up being a surprising line. He falls into the same category as Mitchell, as he’ll also be 32 this summer.
Al Woods, defensive lineman
2018 stats: 24 tackles (8 starts)
Why he won’t be back: Like Mitchell and Goode, Woods’ voice carried a lot of weight inside the locker room. But like Mitchell and Hunt, age isn’t on Woods’ side. He’ll also be turning 32 (in March).
Other free agents: Tight end Ryan Hewitt, offensive lineman J’Marcus Webb, safety J.J. Wilcox