Colts take hard stance on Rashaan Melvin, trading down sounds unlikely
INDIANAPOLIS – The Indianapolis Colts’ eventful offseason continues this week with the NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium, the team’s brain trust and scouting staff working to reverse its fortunes in 2018.
There are new coaches, new schemes and, eventually, there will plenty of new players.
General Manager Chris Ballard and coach Frank Reich hit on all of this during their respective news conferences on Wednesday. Here are four key takeaways from those sessions as the Colts head into the meat of a busy offseason.
>> Colts in no hurry on Melvin
The Colts’ biggest in-house free agent is cornerback Rashaan Melvin, who is coming off the best season of his career. That puts him in position to hit the market at an opportune time, unless the Colts see fit to lock him up before he makes it to the market.
Don’t count on that happening.
Ballard was emphatic Wednesday when he said the Colts won’t rush to sign Melvin before the market sets his value.
“We’ll let it play out,” Ballard said of his approach to Melvin’s free agency.
Ballard often stresses his intent to groom players from within then re-sign those players to contract extensions. He was asked whether Melvin’s case is an example of this. But Ballard drew a distinction between that and the six-year veteran who has been with the Colts for two seasons but wasn’t drafted by the club.
“You’d like to get it to where you’re going to your guys after their third year and then extending them so they never actually hit free agency,” Ballard said of NFL players being eligible for free agency after five seasons. “When they get to a point where they hit free agency, then you’ve got to let the market play out and you’ve got to determine, is he within our price range and where do we see his value?”
It’s not clear what Melvin’s contract demands are, but he’s never made significant money because he was slowed by injuries earlier in his career and bounced from team to team. There have been several indications Melvin has ambitious goals for this contract, and Ballard’s hardline stance is, perhaps, a reflection of that.
>> Will the Colts trade down?
The Colts are in solid position holding the No. 3 overall pick in a quarterback-heavy draft. That might present some trade-down opportunities, a notion that was broached with Ballard on Wednesday. It’s too early to speculate what might happen, but Ballard didn’t exactly bend over backward to convince anyone he’s looking to trade the pick.
“If you trade back and you say, ‘Well, there’s only 15 or 16 true first-round players, is it worth trading back for those extra picks?” Ballard said. “And then, the player you’re going to take (at No. 3), is he a difference maker to where he’s going to make that much of a difference for our football team versus three guys? You just have to weigh it. Are we always open? Absolutely. But at the end of the day, we’ll always do the best thing for the team.”
Contrast that with what Tennessee Titans GM John Robinson said at the Combine two years ago before sending the No. 1 overall pick to the Los Angeles Rams in a blockbuster trade.
“It’s got to be a two-way street. We’ve got to have somebody that wants to move up to that spot,” Robinson said then, basically begging for phone calls. “We’re open for business and willing to have discussions. We’re just trying to put ourselves in position to improve the football team.”
>> Wide-receiver needs
The Colts have a very unstable situation at receiver, where Pro Bowler T.Y. Hilton stands alone as a proven player who is under contract for 2018. The position ranks near the top of needs this offseason, especially with Donte Moncrief and Kamar Aiken – the top two options behind Hilton in 2017 – headed for free agency and hardly sure to be re-signed.
“Is it a position where we have some unproven guys? Yes,” Ballard said. “But we have Chester (Rogers), who was nicked up last year but we think has a chance to really ascend. He’s going into his third year. He’s done a great job working on his body.
“But at the wide receiver position – especially listening to Andrew and Jacoby talk and listening to Frank (Reich) and what they want – it’ll be a position where we’ll be looking.”
That begs a very important question: What kind of receiver are the Colts looking for in Reich’s new offense? Reich didn’t offer a direct answer, saying instead he can be flexible and work with a variety of sizes and playing styles at the position.
Whatever the case, the Colts are likely to be the hunt for size at receiver. That’ll be especially true of Moncrief is allowed to walk, as expected.
>> Finding pass rushers
In this season where smokescreens are more common than direct answers, the Colts are being pretty honest about the landscape for acquiring pass rushers. They don’t have nearly enough talent at the position, and they have a very good chance of landing North Carolina State edge rusher Bradley Chubb with the No. 3 overall pick.
Asked about their needs there – as well as the utter lack of available free agents at the position – Reich and Ballard didn’t flinch.
“I don’t care. The game hasn’t changed. You win up front on both sides of the ball, and you have to be able to affect the quarterback,” Reich said. “No one does it like the pass rusher. So, if you’ve got one, you better hold on tight.”
Said Ballard: “It’s hard to find (pass rushers) in free agency because they just don’t let them out of the building.”
Ballard did try to downplay the need to draft a pass rusher at the upper reaches of the draft, saying, “You’ve got to draft and develop your own guys. The good thing about it is, they come from all levels. I don’t think you just have to take a first-round guy.”
But he’s not fooling anyone. Everyone knows where the best pass-rushing talent tends to come from. Of the four edge rushers on the first and second All-Pro teams in 2017, only one (Everson Griffen) was drafted beyond the second round.
Follow Colts Insider Stephen Holder on Twitter: @HolderStephen.