T.Y. Hilton, Colts

NFL free agency 2021: Colts have work ahead of them

The Indianapolis Colts used some of their ample cap space on trading for Carson Wentz. Now they must be active in NFL free agency.

Chris Ballard found his quarterback. Now he has to assemble the team around him.

The Indianapolis Colts general manager is working from a decent position. His team finished 11-5 last season and pushed the No. 2 seed Buffalo Bills to the brink in a Wild Card game before ultimately falling. Now, the Colts return a strong young nucleus centered on an excellent offensive line and linebacker Darius Leonard, along with weaponry in second-year stars Jonathan Taylor and receiver Michael Pittman Jr.

However, Indianapolis, armed with approximately $43.6 million in cap space, has work ahead.


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The Colts have litany of their own impact players hitting the market, headlined by edge rusher Justin Houston, defensive tackle Denico Autry, wide receiver T.Y. Hilton and others. While none figure to be huge contracts, each could command a decent chunk.

Autry is a terrific interior presence who has notched 20 sacks in the past three seasons, including 7.5 in 2020. Houston has 97.5 career sacks and has been the team’s best edge rusher since coming aboard in 2019. Hilton is aging and occasionally injured but still had 762 yards and five touchdowns last year.

Beyond their own players, the Colts need to add offensively and in the secondary.

Ballard would do well in finding another receiver to provide some help for Pittman and Hilton. Allen Robinson and Chris Godwin are expected to be the best receivers on the market, but Indy could also explore options such as JuJu Smith-Schuster, Kenny Golladay, Sammy Watkins, Marvin Jones, Tyrell Williams and others, depending on how much of an investment is to be made.



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In the secondary, the Colts have a strong draft class to choose from, but could also look for a veteran in Bashaud Breeland, Richard Sherman, Patrick Peterson and more.

With the AFC South in flux, Indianapolis has a chance to make a serious move with Wentz on board. Along with picks and cap space, the Colts are in a prime position to improve dramatically both in the short and long-term pictures, provided (and this is the biggie) that head coach Frank Reich can get Wentz back to a decent level.

The Colts have a critical NFL free agency ahead. For Ballard, landing Wentz can only be the first step.

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