INDIANAPOLIS – It was early February and free agency was still a month away, but Chris Ballard knew then he was going to use that method of adding to his roster more than he hopes to do so going forward.
The necessary changes for the Colts were too immense for Ballard to steer completely away from free agency in 2017.
Ideally, the Colts would not be so active in free agency, but circumstances dictated otherwise for Ballard's first offseason as an NFL general manger.
With free agency now nearly a month old, Ballard has signed 10 outsides FAs, the most in franchise history.
"I guess after a couple of weeks on the job I knew we were older on defense and we weren't going to be able to fix everything in the draft and we wanted to get some young, veteran talent to up the competition level," Ballard said of how his 2017 free agency approach changed after evaluating the roster.
Ballard was going to use free agency quite a bit in 2017. However, he still wanted to bring a prudent method with his spending.
He feels he did that with seven of the 10 free agents age 27 or younger. None of the deals inked will make for too much cap stress in the coming years either.
"These were all young players that still have upside on their career, which is what we are looking for---the ascending arrow," Ballard says. "Most of them are on short team deals so they still have something to prove and it ups to the competition level on defense, which we wanted to do.
"Then when we go to the draft, no matter what side of the ball we are on and end up taking a player, it's going to continue to up the competition level."
Through all the rumors and speculation surrounding free agency, the Colts were very selective in how they went about their business.
Of the few big names that did hit the open market, Ballard held back from any bidding wars, despite the enticing nature to get involved.
"Absolutely it was (tempting)," Ballard said of making plays for some bigger name free agents. "But you've got to be able to go home every night and lay your head on the bed knowing that we are going to find a player, eventually.
"You don't want to make unsound decisions based on pressure from the outside of the building or even internal pressure that we have to have a guy. I'll give our coaching staff a lot of credit, they've been very patient with us on the scouting end that they understood what our vision was and got on the same page where we all had the same vision."
One message that Ballard has harped on with his staff is: player acquisition does not cease now.
Ballard pointed out how in Kansas City, they claimed three players off waivers that ended up signing a second contract with the Chiefs.
"You've got to have some discipline and you've got to put a value with your club of what that value is," Ballard says of juggling the free agency dilemma. "If it works out, great. Then if it doesn't work out, we've got time and we can continue to work."
Jim Irsay is very pleased how Ballard handled the first phase of the offseason.
The steps to cleaning up pasts gambles that might have gone wrong have begun before the all-important draft late this month.
"I think it really came down to us talking about having the discipline to formulate a plan – which we did – and stick to that plan without deviating from it, which you can be tempted (to do)," Irsay said of free agency. "You get close to signing a guy, you put a number on him and you say, 'Well, we can go another million per year, put some incentives in it,' but I think that's one thing that Chris and I have talked about that we think is important---set certain parameters and be disciplined enough to walk away.
"I've said this before through the decades: Sometimes the best deals you make are the ones you don't make."
We will see if the 10 outside free agents the Colts signed pay off, even if the checkbook did not have too many dollar signs and commas in 2017.
The analysis from those producing content on Colts.com does not necessarily represent the thoughts of the Indianapolis Colts organization. Any conjecture, analysis or opinions formed by Colts.com content creators is not based on inside knowledge gained from team officials, players or staff.