INDIANAPOLIS – After being "buried" in draft room meetings for 17 straight days, Chris Ballard has emerged above ground in embarking on his first NFL Combine as a general manager.
Ballard spoke to the media on Wednesday, a day in which he decided to not use the franchise tag on one of his nine unrestricted free agents, a move that was not a surprise.
Wednesday saw the NFL salary cap set for 2017, and Ballard talked about how he might use the $53.2 million the Colts have this year, which is the seventh most in the NFL.
Here are the takeaways from Chris Ballard's first Combine press conference:
**Ballard didn't offer specific updates on the injured Colts (i.e. Clayton Geathers, Kendall Langford and Jack Mewhort).
The GM was asked several times about a timetable for Andrew Luck this offseason.
No date for Luck was given by Ballard, following the franchise quarterback having right shoulder surgery in January.
Luck has been rehabbing at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center everyday this offseason. But the GM didn't reveal any exact return date for No. 12.
"We all know how important Andrew is to this organization," Ballard said on Wednesday, "So we are going to do the best thing for Andrew Luck and we are going to follow the doctor's orders.
"When he's ready, he's ready."
The Colts will reconvene for OTAs on April 17.Chris Ballard on free agency:
"When you pay that amount of money, you have to be right on the character that you are bringing into your building."
"He has to be a fit, he has to be a fit for what you are doing offensively and defensively. That's where my fear of free agency comes in. Is he a good fit? Is he the type of person that is going to come in and the other players are not going to resent him because he is making an amount of money? If he is a worker and a good teammate and he is going to help us win then they will buy in and he will be a good player for us."
Bowen's Analysis:* *On more than one occasion Wednesday, Ballard stressed what all goes into signing an outside free agent. Just because Chris Ballard has the money, doesn't mean that cash will be spent on just anybody. A fit from a scheme and locker room standpoint is equally important. Ballard mentioned that bringing in a free agent perks the interest of every other guy in that locker room, so that transition has to be as seamless as possible to keep things cohesive.
Ballard and the coaches have had "honest and respectful" conversations about the current roster. The new GM says the coaching staff has been a joy to work with, as Rob Chudzinski and Ted Monachino have helped lay out what sorts of players their respective sides of the ball are looking for in each system. When asked about positional needs for the Colts, Ballard did not reveal anything particular, rather saying the goal is to always create competition from roster spot 1 to 63 (including the 10-man practice squad).Chris Ballard on the draft depth at outside linebacker:
"It's a deep group. There's some explosive players that all have rush talent. I'm excited to watch them work out here over the next week.
"We will always…be looking for pass rushers. This is a passing league, so it's about protecting your quarterback and going to get the other guy's quarterback."
Bowen's Analysis:* *Ballard did not receive a lot of draft depth questions on Wednesday. He did provide some thoughts on an outside linebacker group that some believe could have close to 10 first-round caliber prospects. Asked about red-flag prospects, Ballard said the decision will be an organizational one, from ownership on down, but he makes sure his scouts "ignore the noise" when formulating their own opinions on evaluating guys.
When pressed further about the draft, and weighing best player available versus need, Ballard said "you never pass on a great player." In past stops, Ballard said teams he's been with have regretted not sticking to that philosophy. Ballard also said that if players are even/close together on a draft board, you really look into the trenches (on both sides of the ball) to try and break that tie.Chris Ballard on David Parry's arrest:
"We are working to get all the details and I don't want to comment on that until we get all the details and all the facts."
Bowen's Analysis: Chris Ballard and David Parry have spoken since the team's starting nose tackle was arrested over the weekend. As of Wednesday evening, the Colts had not made any roster move regarding Parry. Even if Parry is retained, a new shift in personnel at the nose tackle position could occur. Parry, who has started the last two seasons, isn't your cookie cutter 3-4 nose tackle. Ballard could be inclined to find a more natural body to play in the middle of a three-man front.
Speaking of the trenches, Ballard did once again mention the five names he talked about earlier this offseason for the offensive line. LT-Anthony Castonzo, LG-Jack Mewhort and C-Ryan Kelly makes Ballard sleep easy at night. Ballard believes Joe Haeg has a chance to be a starter in this league and that it has been "fun to watch" the versatile lineman on film. Ballard did like the "valuable experience" Le'Raven Clark got late last season and the 2016 third-round pick just needs more playing time to develop.
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