INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard made his big moves a month ago.
With 26-year-old Pro Bowl defensive tackle DeForest Buckner available via trade and a perfect fit for the most essential component in the Colts defense, Balllard didn’t hesitate to part with his first-round pick at No. 13 overall. The next day, he found a new starting quarterback, too.
They were easy calls, even for someone who treasures draft choices and resists the urge of spending heavily in free agency.
“I thought it was a no-brainer,” Ballard said last week, referring to the Buckner deal. “Matter of fact, I held my freaking breath, praying that it was going to get done. I couldn’t be more pleased about getting this young man into this organization and I think you will see the same things I see here going forward.”
It all set up a quiet Thursday night as the NFL draft got started. But Ballard is about to start making some real noise and Indy might be, too.
The Colts have seven picks in the final six rounds and with the additions of Philip Rivers and Buckner, who is now signed through 2024, Ballard has the kind of flexibility front-office executives crave heading into the biggest event of the offseason.
Ballard was set to make his first pick at No. 34 overall and his second just 10 selections later — if he stands pat. Two years ago, he swapped first-round slots with the New York Jets, picking up three extra second-round picks over the next two years. Ballard wound up selecting All-Pros with each of his first two picks that year — guard Quenton Nelson and linebacker Darius Leonard.
Last year, Ballard again traded back out of the first round to acquire extra picks from Washington. That’s why the Colts have the second pick Friday and it could be for sale, too.
“We are going to let it rip,” Ballard said. “To be honest with you, I would like more picks. We’ll see if that happens or not, but I feel confident in our group. I feel confident in our work and what we have done, and we think we are going to acquire good players.”
The Colts are expected to address the offense in the draft. With the 38-year-old Rivers nearing the end of his career and no quarterbacks signed beyond this season, Ballard could be in the market for a longtime replacement for the retired Andrew Luck.
He could upgrade the receiving corps, even after creating depth by re-signing receiver Marcus Johnson and adding tight end Trey Burton. The Colts could look for a potential successor for longtime left tackle Anthony Castonzo, who considered retiring after last season.
Regardless of how it turns out, Ballard believes he already has a major payoff from the Buckner trade.
“He is a young guy — and look, premium players cost a premium price. That is the cost of having a great player,” Ballard said. “I thought at the end of the day, the 13th pick versus DeForest was a no-brainer.”
More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL