Offseason work for Colts includes more than $50 million in guarantees

Colts GM Chris Ballard

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Jim Irsay signed off on Chris Ballard investing heavily to return the Indianapolis Colts roster to championship status.

He used the term “a billion’’ – as in dollars – over a five- or six-year stretch when discussing roster building at last month’s NFL owners meetings.

Ballard hasn’t reached that threshold, but has made another dent in it this offseason.

Friday, he created another ripple by re-signing offensive tackle J’Marcus Webb. Contract terms were not immediately available, but Webb likely re-upped with a one-year deal in the $1 million range.

Webb was a late addition last season. When injuries decimated the position in training camp, the Colts signed him to a one-year, $900,000 contract in late July. He was the starting right tackle for the season opener against Cincinnati, but suffered a season-ending hamstring injury.

Webb is just the latest decision by Ballard and his staff aimed at adhering to their personnel strategy: target and re-sign as many of your own as possible, and supplement that with selective free agents.

Later this month is the sweet spot for Ballard’s approach: the NFL draft.

The Colts offseason doesn’t measure up to some of shenanigans going on elsewhere – Cleveland, the New York Jets, Oakland, Green Bay come to mind – but we get the impression it’s unfolding exactly as Ballard had anticipated.

“I always laugh when people act like we didn’t do anything,’’ he said at the owners meetings. “Adam Vinatieri was a free agent. (Mark) Glowinski was a free agent. (Margus) Hunt was a free agent. Pierre (Desir) was a free agent. (Clayton) Geathers was a free agent.

“All those guys coming back and playing another year together . . . continuity means something in this league. It does. And ‘team’ means something in this league. And they’re all good players.’’

From a financial standpoint, the offseason is another example of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. Defensive end Justin Houston created the biggest splash – a two-year, $23 million deal with $18.5 million in guarantees – but he’s one of 20 players either signed off the open market, given a new contract or extended one-year tenders as restricted or exclusive free agents.

Depending on how you look at last year’s roster, the Colts return 20 of 22 starters.

Although it’s always risky delving into the value of contracts – all that really matters is the amount guaranteed; the rest too often goes up in smoke – it’s nonetheless interesting to consider the extensive financial investment to this point: more than $110 million in reported value of the contracts, $50 million in guarantees and $63 million in cap space.

According to the NFLPA, the Colts still have a league-high $59 million in cap space. The Colts must budget approximately $8 million for their nine-player draft class and it’s possible Ballard isn’t done addressing his own players. The team has until May 3 to exercise the fifth-year option on center Ryan Kelly’s rookie deal – or sign him to a long-term extension – and no one should rule out Indy giving left tackle Anthony Castonzo, who’s current deal expires at the end of the season, an extension.

Here’s a capsule look at significant players signed or re-signed this offseason:

  • DE Justin Houston: 2 years, $23 million, $18.5 million guaranteed. Cap: $14 million.
  • WR Devin Funchess: 1 year, $10 million with a maximum value of $13 million, $7 million guaranteed. Cap: $10 million.
  • CB Pierre Desir: 3 years, $25 million, $12 million guaranteed. Cap: $9 million.
  • PK Adam Vinatieri: 1 year, $3.875 million, $2 million guaranteed. Cap: $3.875 million.
  • G Mark Glowinski: 3 years, $18 million, $4.2 million guaranteed. Cap: $3.3 million.
  • DL Margus Hunt: 2 years, $9 million, $4.5 million guaranteed. Cap: $5.1 million.
  • S Clayton Geathers: 1 year, $2.75 million, $1.25 million. Cap: $3 million.
  • CB Chris Milton: 1 year, $1.5 million, $600,000 guaranteed. Cap: $1.5 million.
  • WR Chester Rogers: 1 year, $3.095 million (restricted tender). Cap: $3.095 million.
  • S Matthias Farley: 1 year, $2.025 million (restricted tender). Cap: $2.025 million.
  • C Evan Boehm: 1 year, $2.025 million (restricted tender). Cap: $2.025 million.
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