INDIANAPOLIS – It’s been a month like few others for the Indianapolis Colts.
In the span of 31 days, a team that traditionally bides its time during the otherwise chaotic and costly phase of the NFL’s offseason has made three seismic moves that have added Pro Bowl talent to the roster.
The latest: agreeing to a two-year, $23 million contract with cornerback Stephon Gilmore, according to a source with knowledge of the situation. The deal includes $14 million in guarantees and immediately adds pedigree to a position of need.
Gilmore, 31, is the third roster-impacting domino to fall in a short period of time.
March 21: Acquiring quarterback Matt Ryan in a trade with the Atlanta Falcons. That was preceded by jettisoning quarterback Carson Wentz in a trade to the Washington Commanders.
March 16: Acquiring edge pass rusher Yannik Ngakoue in a trade with the Las Vegas Raiders. The cost: starting cornerback Rock Ya-Sin, which automatically created a significant need at the position.
Enter, Stephon Gilmore.
As the offseason has unfolded and other teams – Jacksonville, Miami, the Los Angeles Rams, etc. – have been ultra-aggressive, Ballard has preached patience.
It’s not a stretch to consider his reaction with Gilmore now in the fold.
It always works out the way it should.
During the NFL Scouting Combine in February, Ballard reinforced his philosophy of not overpaying for free-agent talent. But he also hinted he wouldn’t be averse to pursuing the appropriate prospects.
“If an opportunity presents itself we think is good – we think we’re getting a good player at a value we think is the right price – then we’ll do it,’’ he said. “Even if you have to overpay a little bit, I’m okay with that.’’
Also, owner Jim Irsay told Colts.com last month Ballard might pursue a high-profile defensive player “to come in and make a big difference . . . an addition that excites some.
“It’s possible. I know Chris Ballard is looking hard at that.’’
Irsay dispatched his personal jet to bring Gilmore in for a formal visit Wednesday, and the deal was consummated Friday.
By appearances, the Colts didn’t overpay for Gilmore. Spotrac.com projected Gilmore would command a two-year, $28 million contract on the open market. Pro Football Focus anticipated a two-year, $25 million deal.
Whatever the cost, Gilmore represents an immediate upgrade at cornerback and adds another playmaker to the defense.
He was the NFL’s 2019 Defensive Player of the Year, is a five-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro selection. Gilmore has started 125 of 132 regular-season games with Buffalo, New England and Carolina, and started seven postseason games with the Patriots. That includes earning a world championship ring when New England defeated the Rams 13-3 in Super Bowl LIII.
Gilmore finished 2021 with Carolina following a midseason trade from New England. He opened the season on the Patriots’ physically unable to perform list while rehabbing a torn quadriceps, but would appear in eight games with three starts. He finished with two interceptions and two passes defensed.
The offseason clearly has reshaped the secondary.
Gilmore slides in at one starting cornerback position, probably alongside Isaiah Rodgers. Pro Bowler Kenny Moore II remains a top-level nickel while free-agent acquisition Brandon Facyson offers proven depth.
At safety, the Colts signed 10-year veteran Rodney McLeod to either start alongside Khari Willis while Julian Blackmon recovers from a torn Achilles, or to serve as the third safety when Blackmon is 100%.
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.