No. 12 should be safe.
Wide receiver T.Y. Hilton probably joins quarterback Andrew Luck as an untouchable, but are we sure there wouldn’t be some deal Ballard might consider?
Ballard said last week he intended to establish competition from “1 to 63” on the roster, and it looks like the competition has already started. Since Ballard took over, three Colts starters have retired (outside linebacker Robert Mathis, punter Pat McAfee and offensive lineman Joe Reitz), one was cut (linebacker D’Qwell Jackson), another was told he wouldn’t be re-signed (safety Mike Adams) and one was traded (Allen).
How much is Ballard shaking things up? According to longtime Colts beat reporter Mike Chappell, Ballard broke a 32-year streak of no deals with the Patriots.
Ballard is doing exactly what he was hired to do.
He needs to make significant moves. He needs to do something to fix a porous, aging defense and find a way to correct consecutive seasons of 8-8 mediocrity. Right now, he’s clearing space for the rebuild.
Only a year ago, Allen was picked over Coby Fleener as the tight end the Colts were willing to sign to the big money. Now, it’s Jack Doyle instead.
The trade of Allen – one of the most popular Colts, both with fans and owner Jim Irsay – sends a message that status quo is unacceptable. There will be competition. There will be attempts to upgrade the roster. There will be drastic change, if necessary.
Players won’t be brought back just because they’re great guys.
Ballard’s decision to part ways with Adams and Allen, in particular, shows a bottom-line business approach. Those two are terrific locker room guys, strong character players who commanded respect among their peers. But Adams is aging after two Pro Bowl seasons in three years and Allen hasn’t been as productive as the Colts would like.
Ryan Grigson made a choice last year between Allen and Fleener. Ballard made one this year between Allen and Doyle. An objective observer would say Doyle was more productive last season.
Ballard brings a fresh set of eyes to the Colts, and doesn’t have any emotional connection to any of the players.
Ballard isn’t heartless. He cut Jackson right away in order to be upfront when he saw Jackson coming into the office during the early days after Ballard took over. He said Jackson deserved that respect, rather than letting him think he would be back.
But Ballard’s not messing around.
He’s committed to working with returning coach Chuck Pagano, and both men say the relationship is off to a good start. Pagano will need to win, and win often. Ballard’s task to build a winner is just beginning. Pagano has to prove he should stick around past the first steps in the construction.
It’ll be interesting to see how aggressive Ballard is in free agency, and to the possible options on bigger money players. He has said the team plans to be smart in free agency, so it seems unlikely he’ll direct a path to the more expensive free agents.
His willingness to deal Allen for a draft pick – the Colts also gave up a sixth-round pick – shows they’re putting a major emphasis on the draft. Yes, some salary-cap space was created by dealing Allen, but it’s relatively minor.
Ballard was hired to rebuild the Colts.
He has his hammer out.
This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Reggie Hayes at firstname.lastname@example.org.