Colts have interest in free-agent nose tackle Johnathan Hankins

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EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 05: Defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins #95 of the New York Giants celebrates after sacking quarterback Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons in the fourth quarter of their game at MetLife Stadium on October 5, 2014 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The NFL draft looms, but the Indianapolis Colts continue to explore free-agent possibilities.

After already signing 10 veterans over the last month, the team is considering another: Johnathan Hankins. The veteran nose tackle, one of the top remaining players on the free-agent market, visited the Colts Tuesday, according to ESPN.

The interest is understandable and would be the latest transaction in first-year general manager Chris Ballard’s retooling of a defense that a year ago ranked No. 30 in yards allowed and No. 22 in points.

Hankins, 25, was a 2013 second-round pick of the New York Giants who has established himself as a premier defensive line anchor. He’s 6 feet 3 inches tall, weighs 320 pounds, and has started 41 of 52 career games.

It remains to be seen whether the Colts are able to add another intriguing defensive component at a reasonable price, or whether they’ll have to invest at a heavier level. The period of time for veteran free agents to secure hefty multi-year contracts generally has passed, but Hankins might be an exception considering his age and pedigree.

The Giants reportedly have on offer on the table for Hankins to return, but it obviously hasn’t met his demands. It’s believed he’s been seeking a multi-year deal worth nearly $8 million per year.

“There’s still one more piece out there that we’d like to keep, but we wanted to try to do that if possible without being irresponsible,’’ Giants president John Mara said recently. “I don’t know what’s going to happen. We certainly want him back, but it’s got to make sense for us.

“He’s an important part of our team, he’s a great kid, he’s young and he fits in very well with us.’’

Ballard has been busy in free agency, but hardly reckless. His free-agent acquisitions have included linebackers Jabaal Sheard, John Simon, Sean Spencer and Barkevious Mingo, nose tackle Al Woods and defensive end Margus Hunt. Sheard’s contract has been the biggest: three years, $25 million with $9.5 million guaranteed.

Hankins would undoubtedly step in as the projected starting nose tackle, leap-frogging incumbent David Parry and Woods. Parry’s status with the team remains uncertain following his alcohol-related arrest in Phoenix in March.