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With eye on building around Anthony Richardson, Colts encouraged and cautious with QB's recovery from shoulder injury

Richardson began throwing earlier this month for the first time since he sustained a season-ending shoulder injury in Week 5 of the 2023 season. 


Anthony Richardson is throwing again, and while the Colts are encouraged by his rehab progress, they're not looking for him to be ahead of schedule. Being on schedule is more than enough. 

General manager Chris Ballard emphasized that balance in discussing where Richardson, the 2023 No. 4 overall pick, stands as he works his way back from a shoulder injury and ensuring surgery that ended his rookie year in Week 5. 

"Really happy about where he's at," Ballard said. "He started throwing, he's on a rehab program. I lived through the last one and I learned a lot of lessons living through the last one (with Andrew Luck). So forgive me for being a little cautious.

"... We're here to pull the reins to make sure we don't get too far ahead of schedule and we're staying with whatever the doctors are telling us. But he's in good shape, he's throwing, he's got a good throwing program, he's got good people working with him. I'm encouraged about where he's at and where he's going, and we'll go from there."

As the Colts track Richardson's progress in the coming weeks, they'll also begin the process of building their roster around both their quarterback's skillset and contract. Armed with the No. 15 overall pick, a quarterback on an inexpensive rookie contract and a healthy amount of cap space – especially after the NFL last week announced a $255.4 million 2024 salary cap, higher than expected – the Colts have resources at their disposal. 

But that does not necessarily mean the Colts are eyeing an over-the-top spending spree in a few weeks. 

"Free agency, everybody gets excited for that week and stamps a future Super Bowl winner off of that," Ballard said. "But what you're seeing is, alright, you got the A-level players, well what happens with them, they get tagged. So now you got the next level ones that you end up paying A money. If there's one on the market that we think fits us — and look, it takes two sides here. There's times you'll make an offer, a big offer, to a player and you just don't get him and he goes somewhere else. That's part of it. We'll be as aggressive as we need to be when we think we need to be."

Giving Richardson the best opportunity to succeed begins with protecting him up front, Ballard said. The Colts' offensive line in 2023 was tagged with allowing the third-fewest sacks (15) and sixth-lowest pressure rate (25 percent) in the NFL, per Pro Football Focus, with left guard Quenton Nelson and center Ryan Kelly both earning Pro Bowl nods.

Every Colts offensive lineman who started a game in 2023 – starters Nelson, Kelly, Bernhard Raimann, Will Fries and Braden Smith, as well as reserves Blake Freeland and Wesley French – is under contract in 2024. 

From there, Ballard said the Colts will look to surround Richardson with both explosive players, and players who can accentuate the quarterback's own explosiveness. 

"Even with a short span he was playing, he's explosive in himself," Ballard said. "The more good, reliable players you can put around him, the better. No. 1, protect him. No. 2, try to put the best players you can around him."

While Richardson started only four games as a rookie, the Colts were encouraged by what they saw – and the prospect of getting him healthy with head coach Shane Steichen for a full season is encouraging. But Ballard also cautioned on Wednesday Richardson still has plenty of developing and growing to do – while, in the same breath, saying he's happy he not only knows who the Colts' quarterback will be in 2024, but knows it'll be a young, ascending player. 

"We still gotta have Anthony prove it, even though we like where he's at," Ballard said. "And he's going to go through some growing pains still. Let's just don't expect him to step out there and be Superman right away.

"But is it a lot better comfort or feeling knowing you're not going out chasing a vet and having to dump a bunch of resources into that? Absolutely it is."

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