UPDATED (4 p.m. ET Tuesday): The Indianapolis Colts decided not to make any moves by today's 4 p.m. ET 2020 NFL trade deadline. Here's our earlier trade deadline preview article, in which we take a look at the Colts' roster through seven games and where a move might've made sense, and also why general manager Chris Ballard could've decided to simply move forward with what he's got.
INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts always have their lines in the water, but is 2020 the year that they catch that proverbial big fish?
The National Football League's trade deadline is fast approaching — all moves must be made by 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday — and the Colts, now at 5-2 for a second straight season, find themselves tied atop the AFC South Division with the Tennessee Titans.
Some contenders this time of the year consider themselves just a piece or two away from making a deep playoff run, while others not only are satisfied with what they have, but they also want to hang on to those precious draft picks they're usually required to give up to make a significant move.
The Colts have mostly fallen under the latter category since Chris Ballard was hired as general manager heading into the 2017 season — in fact, the team is yet to make a move at the trade deadline under Ballard — but that doesn't mean he won't consider, and hasn't seriously considered, acquiring a player at the deadline if the fit, and the price, is right.
"We're always looking to get better," Ballard has told Colts.com in the past. "I've said that since Day 1. We're always going to look to improve. We'll always have lines in the water."
But, of course, in trade discussions, "it always takes two teams to tango," Ballard added.
"You can want (to make moves), but it doesn't mean the other team (and) you agree on the compensation that needs to be done to get the trade done," he said. "So we'll see."
If the Colts were to make a move by Tuesday afternoon's trade deadline, what areas of the roster could they possibly be targeting for an improvement?
» Indianapolis headed into this past offseason looking to get more explosive in the passing game, and through seven games they've done just that; with new quarterback Philip Rivers in the mix, the Colts currently rank fourth in the NFL in explosive pass play percentage (completions of 15 yards or more) at 17.1, according to Pro Football Focus.
That being said, could the team possibly be targeting a big-name wide receiver to add to the mix? The Colts have been hit by injuries at the position, with top slot receiver Parris Campbell out indefinitely since Week 2 with a knee injury, and with 2020 second-round pick Michael Pittman Jr. just getting back into the fold on Sunday after missing three games with a lower leg injury. Top receiver T.Y. Hilton, meanwhile, exited Sunday's win over the Detroit Lions with a groin injury, and his immediate status is unknown.
The counter-argument to adding a wide receiver at the trade deadline? This isn't the MLB, NBA or NHL, where you can generally plug-and-play most players at any position mid-season (with some exceptions). It takes time for a wide receiver to build a rapport with his quarterback, to pick up his new team's playbook and to execute the techniques expected of him by his new coaching staff.
That doesn't mean a receiver can't conceivably come in and make an instant impact — it's certainly been done before — but these are just some of the factors one considers when exploring these moves.
» Perhaps the most perplexing part about the Colts' offense to this point of the season is its occasional struggles in the run game. Indianapolis ranked seventh in the league in rushing last season — and was just 1.5 yards per game outside of the top five — but this season, despite running the ball on 44.5 percent of their offensive plays, the fifth-highest rate in the league, the Colts rank 25th in total rushing yards and last in yards-per-carry average.
But Ballard and head coach Frank Reich could very well just decide to stand pat and continue chipping away when it comes to the run game. The Colts have one of the league's top offensive line units, and they have a talented, versatile running backs group led by 2020 second-round pick Jonathan Taylor and third-year veterans Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins, both of whom had big performances Sunday against the Lions. Patience could be key in this area specifically.
» On defense, there really aren't many deficiencies to pick at to this point of the season if you're the Colts. The team ranks third in yards allowed, second in first downs allowed, sixth in passing yards allowed, first in interceptions, second in rushing yards allowed, first in rushing touchdowns allowed, second in yards per carry allowed and eighth in total takeaways.
The one defensive area that could stand to improve moving forward, however, is the overall pass rush. While the Colts rank 12th in total sacks per game (2.6) — and are coming off a season-best five-sack performance in Sunday's win over the Lions — the team is getting pressure on the quarterback on 28 percent of total dropbacks, according to PFF, which ranks 21st in the NFL.
But premiere pass rushers often come at a hefty price — both in terms of what you give up to acquire them and also the salary you'd likely be adding to your payroll. Also, there's this major factor: the Colts are hoping to see defensive end Kemoko Turay, arguably the team's top speed rusher off the edge, return to game action from the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list at some point soon; that, in of itself, could be considered a "midseason acquisition" of sorts to help give the team's pass rush a shot in the arm.
Recent trade history
Here's a look at some of the more major trades the Colts have made since Ballard took over as general manager in early 2017:
» March 9, 2017: Acquired a 2017 fourth-round pick from the New England Patriots in exchange for tight end Dwayne Allen and a 2017 sixth-round pick.
» April 29, 2017: Acquired 2017 fourth-round (143rd overall) and fifth-round picks (161st overall) from the San Francisco 49ers in exchange for 2017 fourth-round (121st-overall) pick. Eventually used fourth-round pick to select running back Marlon Mack and fifth-round pick to select linebacker Anthony Walker.
» Aug. 28, 2017: Acquired safety Ronald Martin from the New York Jets in exchange for long snapper Thomas Hennessy.
» Sept. 2, 2017: Acquired quarterback Jacoby Brissett from the Patriots in exchange for wide receiver Phillip Dorsett.
» March 17, 2018: Acquired the first-round (6th overall), two second-round (37th overall and 49th overall) 2018 selections and a second-round selection in the 2019 NFL Draft from the Jets in exchange for the first round (3rd overall) selection in the 2018 NFL Draft. Eventually used first-round pick on guard Quenton Nelson and second-round pick on tackle Braden Smith; used 2019 second-round pick on cornerback Rock Ya-Sin.
» April 27, 2018: Acquired 2018 second-round and fifth-round picks from the Philadelphia Eagles in exchange for a 2018 second-round pick (49th-overall). Eventually used second-round pick on defensive end Kemoko Turay and fifth-round pick on running back Jordan Wilkins.
» April 28, 2018: Acquired a 2018 seventh-round pick from the Jets in exchange for defensive end Henry Anderson. Eventually used that pick on linebacker Zaire Franklin.
» Sept. 1, 2018: Acquired wide receiver Marcus Johnson from the Seattle Seahawks in exchange for tight end Darrell Daniels.
» April 25, 2019: Acquired 2019 and 2020 second-round selections from the Washington Redskins in exchange for the No. 26-overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.
» April 26, 2019: Acquired 2019 second-round (49th-overall) and fifth-round (144th-overall) picks from the Cleveland Browns in exchange for a 2019 second-round (46th-overall) pick. Eventually used second-round pick on defensive end Ben Banogu and fifth-round pick on cornerback Marvell Tell III.
— Also acquired a 2019 fourth-round (109th-overall) pick from the Oakland Raiders in exchange for two 2019 fourth-round (129th and 135th overall) picks. Eventually used that pick on safety Khari Willis.
— Also acquired a 2019 seventh-round pick from the Philadelphia Eagles in exchange for defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway. Eventually used that pick on center Javon Patterson.
» Aug. 28, 2019: Initially acquired a 2020 sixth-round pick from the Jets in exchange for cornerback Nate Hairston.
» Aug. 30, 2019: Acquired a 2020 conditional draft pick from the Miami Dolphins in exchange for center/guard Evan Boehm and an undisclosed 2020 draft pick.
» March 18, 2020: Acquired defensive tackle DeForest Buckner from the San Francisco 49ers in exchange for the No. 13-overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
» April 24, 2020: Acquired a 2020 second-round (41st-overall) pick from the Cleveland Browns in exchange for the 2020 second-round (44th-overall) and fifth-round (160th-overall) picks. Eventually used the second-round pick on running back Jonathan Taylor.
— Also acquired 2020 third-round (85th-overall), fifth-round (149th-overall) and sixth-round (182nd-overall) picks from the Detroit Lions in exchange for the 2020 third-round (75th-overall) and sixth-round (197th-overall) selections. Eventually used third-round pick on safety Julian Blackmon and the fifth-round pick on guard Danny Pinter.
» April 25, 2020: Acquired 2020 sixth-round (212th- and 213th-overall) picks from the Patriots in exchange for the 2020 sixth-round (182nd-overall) selection. Eventually used the 212th-overall pick to select wide receiver Dezmon Patmon and used the 213th-overall pick to select linebacker Jordan Glasgow.
— Also acquired the 2020 sixth-round (211th-overall) pick from the Jets in exchange for cornerback Quincy Wilson. Eventually used the 211th-overall pick on cornerback Isaiah Rodgers.