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Chris Ballard off to a solid start in rebuilding Colts

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck tries to escape Houston Texans defenders John Simon (51) and D.J. Reader (98) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 16, 2016, in Houston. (Photo by the Associated Press)
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck tries to escape Houston Texans defenders John Simon (51) and D.J. Reader (98) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 16, 2016, in Houston. (Photo by the Associated Press)

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For more on the Colts, follow Reggie Hayes on Twitter at reggiehayes1
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press

With the draft on the horizon, the plan still unfolding.

Monday, March 13, 2017 09:00 pm
General manager Chris Ballard has a private plan for reloading the Indianapolis Colts, and so far I see no reason to argue with what he’s revealed of it. Would I have re-signed defensive back Darius Butler? Probably. He’s a solid player and seems like a high-character locker room guy. But I’m not in on the negotiations, obviously. I don’t know if his asking price is too high. And, ultimately, Butler’s presence isn’t going to make or break the season.

I would have kept safety Mike Adams, too, although I understand his age (36) was likely the key to letting him go in free agency. (He signed with Carolina.) Adams' veteran presence will be missed, as will his honesty with the media. Just a likable, knowledgeable player.

I like the idea of the Colts bringing in nose tackle Dontari Poe to talk, as well as the fact Ballard refrained from going overboard on salary to make sure Poe didn’t leave the building without a deal. That says to me that Ballard has a firm idea on the money he wants the Colts to spend on a specific free agent, and he’ll stick to that assessment. If Poe's not in the cards as defined by the Colts, Ballard moves on with other aspects of his plan.

The Colts’ moves so far, including the stunning trade of tight end Dwayne Allen to the New England Patriots and the re-signing of tight end Jack Doyle, show a work very much in progress. Ballard’s emphasis seems to be on steady work, not speed or hasty work. He has an offseason, including the draft, to rework the roster. Patience can indeed be a good friend.

Ballard’s two biggest signings to date are former Patriots linebacker Jabaal Sheard and former Houston Texans linebacker John Simon. He also signed former Patriots outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo and former Minnesota Vikings punter Jeff Locke.

Everyone knows the defense has to improve and get younger, in that order. Sheard and Simon come in with solid, if unspectacular resumes. Sheard had 13 sacks over the last two years, Simon 8.5 sacks over the same period. But Simon, especially, was limited in his playing time because of the talent around him, so those numbers could increase. Ballard has let team leader in sacks, Erik Walden, leave in free agency. Walden might end up wth AFC South rival Tennessee.

Sheard, Simon and Mingo, who was officially announced as signing by the Colts on Monday, will enter training camp with some hunger at the point where they should be at or near their peak. Sheard is 27 and Simon and Mingo are both 26. The Colts have also signed defensive lineman Margus Hunt, 29, who was with the Bengals.

Ballard praised Sheard’s “veteran leadership” and called Simon “a significant upgrade to our defense” in released statements. We can’t make too much of those assessments. A general manager is going to praise his own picks. We can only judge this in retrospect, of course. (See: Landry, LaRon).

There’s quite a ways to go before we can judge the plan Ballard is revealing a few bits at a time. The draft is yet to come, and maybe that’s when the next Dwight Freeney or Robert Mathis is found. It’s a draft loaded with pass rushers, after all.

Other areas of need remain, particularly in the secondary with the release of cornerback Patrick Robinson, the decision not to retain Adams and the seemingly likely departure of Butler. Vontae Davis can only do so much.

Free agency continues, whether the Colts land Poe or not. It sounds like he is making a tour before deciding. Bennie Logan signing with the Chiefs probably means Poe won't return to Kansas City. So that could be in the Colts' favor. Another defensive lineman who has generated interest is the New York Giants' Jonathan Hankins. There are other holes still to be filled, too, and plenty of bodies, even if dream names like linebacker Dont’a Hightower remain elusive.

From what I’ve seen, I like where Ballard has the Colts headed. In terms of taking this team on the road to a Super Bowl, he’s still backing out of the driveway.

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 rhayes@news-sentinel.com.

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For more on the Colts, follow Reggie Hayes on Twitter at reggiehayes1

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