INDIANAPOLIS – Let’s hit the pause button on the NFL’s quarterback carousel. Let’s take a break from the uncertainty of Carson Wentz, Deshaun Watson, Sam Darnold, Matt Ryan, Derek Carr, Marcus Mariota and, well, you get the idea.
Don’t get us wrong. It’s a fun ride and will crank up soon enough.
Instead, let’s consider a phase of the league’s roster-building process that’s looming on the calendar: veteran free agency. Teams are permitted to negotiate with another team’s player who has an expiring contract March 15. The new league year opens March 17, which is when deals that essentially have been finalized can actually be finalized.
General manager Chris Ballard and coach Frank Reich believe they’ve constructed a top roster. The Indianapolis Colts, they insist, have proven they’re ready to compete for more than a wild-card playoff spot.
“Do we have work to do? Absolutely,’’ Ballard said. “But this is where I’m really proud of our young players. Now they’re growing up. You just forget how young Quenton, Braden Smith, Leonard, Okereke, Willis, Blackmon, Taylor are . . . Pittman, Zach.
“I like our team. I like our young players.’’
Yet as solid as the 53-player roster is, there are glaring holes and at the most significant positions: quarterback, left tackle, edge rusher. Depending on whether Ballard re-signs T.Y. Hilton and Xavier Rhodes, you can add receiver and cornerback to the list.
It’s debatable how to prioritize the positions of need. We’re sticking with QB1 as No. 1. And No. 2 isn’t close.
Ballard and his personnel staff will use every avenue to address the roster issues. That includes re-signing their own, veteran free agency and the April 29 draft. The Colts have the resources to be active in free agency if they chose to do so with a projected $69 million in cap space, according to Overthecap.com.
The free-agent market appears deep but invariably will shrink as teams re-sign their own or franchise a top-tier talent.
Since settling into his general manager’s chair in January 2017, Ballard has been a selective shopper on the open market. In this area, he and his staff have had many more hits than misses. We would argue none of the misses has registered on the NFL’s You Messed That One Up Meter.
Here’s a recap:
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.