INDIANAPOLIS —Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard on Tuesday spoke to reporters at the the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine. What were the main takeaways on the Combine and draft, free agency, the quarterback position and much more?
— Anthony Castonzo has announced his intention to return in 2020: One of the most critical lingering questions heading into the offseason for the Colts was the status of starting left tackle and unrestricted free agent-to-be Anthony Castonzo, who said after nine seasons in Indy he was considering the possibility of returning to the Colts in 2020 — or even retirement.
But Ballard announced Tuesday that Castonzo has made up his mind: he’s intent on coming back in 2020.
"Anthony has informed me that he will play again — which, of course, brought a big 'ol smile to my face," Ballard said. "So, yeah, we're in the process of working on that right now."
Ballard said Castonzo's status is now more of a "year-to-year" type of thing, but just knowing all five starting offensive linemen are coming back in 2020, after playing all 16 games together in 2019, is "big for us."
"We were fortunate to have all five starters play 16 games," Ballard said. "I mean, I know that's not going to happen every year. That's why I always talk about the six, seven, eight and nine — and even 10 — how all of them are important. But getting Anthony back and having the starting five (back), I know him and Quenton have built quite a relationship and continuity on the same side — I think all five guys have built a continuity, because I think with the O-line, I mean, it's not always about having the five best talent, but five guys that will play together."
— The Colts are continuing to evaluate their options at the quarterback position: Whether Jacoby Brissett ultimately returns as the starter or the team explores adding competition through the draft or free agency, it's clear the Colts are doing their due diligence at quarterback both in the short and the long term.
When it comes to Brissett, the team last year essentially signed him to a one-year extension through 2020 to give him time to show what he's made of after the sudden retirement of Andrew Luck. He had a tremendous first half of the season, leading the Colts to a 5-2 record in their first seven games, before suffering a sprained MCL Week 9 against the Pittsburgh Steelers and then struggling at times down the stretch, as Indy finished at 7-9 and out of the playoff picture.
Ballard reiterated Tuesday that "we still gotta find out more" about Brissett before making the determination that he could be the long-term answer at the position.
"We like Jacoby Brissett. Love what he stands for," Ballard said. "We did the short-term deal to see what we had. To say we're going to create competition, we're going to create competition at any spot. That's going to be a year-to-year thing. Even when Andrew (Luck) was our quarterback, we still studied the quarterback position. I think it's important enough that it's a unique position. We know how hard they are to find and you have to go in depth each and every year for that spot."
Elsewhere, Ballard didn't want to comment on any specific possible free agent quarterbacks that are expected to hit the open market once the new league year begins on March 18; in the draft, meanwhile, Ballard said he certainly isn't against bringing in a rookie from this class, but he also wants to make sure the team isn't reaching.
"I think it's a good group. It's got good depth at all levels," Ballard said. "It's one of the hardest positions to play in sports. One, from the transition from college football to the NFL, what we're asking them to do, and doing it against the best in the world. Then the expectations and the pressure and all the things that come along with playing quarterback.
"We all know that position usually gets pushed up," Ballard continued. "You've got to be true to your evaluation. More mistakes are made when you push that position up and then he doesn't deserve (it). Then the expectations and everything else builds up on that kid."
— The Colts still won't be reaching for big-name free agents, but a splash or two isn't out of the question this offseason: For the first three offseasons as Colts' general manager, Ballard expressed a desire to strengthen the core of the locker room before considering bringing in what would be considered the more "big-name" free agents.
But what about now? Does Ballard think the locker room can handle a big splash or two this offseason?
"Yeah, I do," Ballard said. "We have good guys. We have a good locker room."
But that doesn't necessarily mean it will happen that way — despite the fact the Colts once again have among the most available cap space in the league.
Ballard still prefers to continue building the roster through the draft, a point he continued to hammer home on Tuesday.
"We want to be able to acquire young players and develop our own and develop them as Colts," Ballard said. "(I'm) not saying that we won't enter into free agency because we have, but it won't be our main source of player acquisition. We'll continue to build this thing the way we see fit and the way we think you can win football games."