INDIANAPOLIS — "Wait, the Colts signed another wide receiver?"
That was the collective reaction by many on March 21, when the Indianapolis Colts announced the signing of free agent wide receiver Kamar Aiken.
Aiken had put up some good numbers in recent seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, but the logic, at least initially, of bringing him on to an already-crammed — and talented — Colts wide receiver corps just didn't seem to be all there.
By now we know, however, that first-year general manager Chris Ballard is so enamored with competition across the board — even at a position group considered to be among the best in the league — that the position next to a player's name on the roster doesn't really matter when it comes to bringing in free agents; that if a player fits what the team is trying to do, and could push the other players at his spot to be even better, then they're worth a shot.
That's certainly the case when it comes to Aiken.
And, because of those factors, ESPN Insider Field Yates recently considered the Aiken signing by the Colts as one of the "best one-year flier deals" in the NFL this offseason.
"The first days of NFL free agency are a flurry, and massive money is spent to secure players. But teams are always looking for bargains, and one-year deals often represent the least-risky investments for teams because they can move on from players quickly if they don't perform," Yates wrote in this piece, which requires ESPN Insider access. "These one-year fliers can pay dividends for both sides. Players are motivated to try to earn a new, long-term deal, and teams can get value if the players outperform their one-year pact."
Here's what Yates had to write about the Colts' signing of Aiken, specifically:
9. Kamar Aiken, WR, Indianapolis Colts
Maximum value: $5 million
I was surprised to see a tepid market for Aiken, who is just a year removed from a 75-catch, 944-yard, five-touchdown season. The Colts have made major investments in the wide receiver spot, including locking up T.Y. Hilton long term and drafting Jacoby Brissett in the first round in 2015, but Aiken should compete for plenty of playing time. It wouldn't stun me if Aiken trailed Hilton and tight end Jack Doyle for targets but pushed Donte Moncrief for the third option in the passing game.
With the base value of this deal at only $2.6 million and further incentives based on making the active roster, Aiken represents significant value for Indianapolis.
Yates seems to have hit the nail on the head on this one.
Yes, the Colts already had multiple talented wide receivers prior to the Aiken signing. T.Y. Hilton is the league's reigning receiving champ; Donte Moncrief, when healthy, was one of the top red zone threats in the league in 2016; Phillip Dorsett is the speedster of the group looking to really prove his worth as a first-round pick entering Year 3; Chester Rogers was a surprise contributor as a rookie last year who filled in admirably throughout the season; and Quan Bray continues to work on his receiving skills while really earning his spot as one of the top return men in the game.
But by throwing Aiken — another talented red zone threat, particularly — into the mix, those not named Hilton, and possibly Moncrief, know their spots on the depth chart aren't guaranteed one bit.
That should make for some fun competition in training camp in a couple weeks in Indy, and should carry over into the preseason.
And that aforementioned 2015 for Aiken showed he can easily handle the load of being a team's top receiver; in place of an injured Steve Smith, he caught 75 passes for 944 yards and five touchdowns in 14 starts.
Last season, however, Aiken simply became a victim of circumstance at the wide receiver position for the Ravens, who saw the return of Smith and Breshad Perriman, and also signed Mike Wallace. Aiken would catch 29 passes for 328 yards and one touchdown in 16 games, with six starts, in 2016.
He went into the offseason as a hungry free agent, hoping to prove himself. He'll get just that chance in Indianapolis.
"He's a guy that's coming in here ready to work," Hilton said of Aiken in April. You've seen it from day one, he's working. I think we're working as a group at receiver. We're just pushing one another and it's fun. We're competing every day, day in and day out, and just want to get better."
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.