Colts make splashy entrance into second wave of NFL free agency

INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard promised to be smart in free agency.

He declined to be swayed by splashy moves and refused to overspend — on his players or anyone else’s.

Now Ballard is diving headfirst into the second wave of free agency. After signing tight end Eric Ebron on Monday, he added receiver Ryan Grant and offensive lineman Matt Slauson on Tuesday.

“I’m going to bring myself and everything that comes with me, which is energy, fun, excitement and a will to win,” Ebron said on a conference call Monday night. “Everything after that, you guys are going to have to see for yourself because I’ve learned a lesson not to talk about anything before it happens.”

Ballard is sticking to his game plan.

He has repeatedly said he intends to build through the draft, develop players in-house and merely supplement the Colts’ roster in free agency.

Even though he went into the offseason with more than $70 million to spend, he has remained frugal.

ESPN.com has reported that Ebron’s deal is for two years and up to $15 million. Slauson signed a one-year deal worth $3 million, and Grant agreed to a one-year deal worth $5 million after initially joining Baltimore, which cut him loose after he failed a physical. Grant injured his ankle in Week 17 and has been working his way back. He was surprised by the Ravens’ decision.

“I can’t control what they did. I can’t control their assessment of my ankle,” Grant said during a conference call. “I’ve gone other places, I’ve seen multiple doctors and I’ve passed physicals, so that should pretty much speak for itself.”

The only other player Indianapolis has signed is defensive lineman Denico Autry, who signed a three-year deal worth $17.8 million.

All four fill needs, though.

Autry recorded a career-high five sacks with the Oakland Raiders last season and could help new defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus create a more consistent pass rush. The Colts finished 31st in the NFL last year with 25 sacks.

Grant spent his first four seasons with the Washington Redskins and is expected to compete with Chester Rogers for the starting job opposite Pro Bowler T.Y. Hilton following Donte Moncrief‘s departure. The 6-foot, 204-pound Grant produced his best season in 2017 — 45 receptions, 573 yards and four TDs.

Slauson has started 108 games since entering the league with the New York Jets in 2009. He was in Chicago when Ballard was working with the Bears, and Slauson played for new Colts offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo with both the Jets and Chargers.

Ebron, the Detroit Lions‘ first-round pick in 2014, was released last week after developing a reputation for dropping passes. In Indianapolis, he’ll have a chance to jump-start his career playing alongside Jack Doyle, who appeared in his first Pro Bowl last season, and Erik Swoope, a converted basketball player who climbed into the No. 2 spot on the Colts’ depth chart.

The happiest guy might be Andrew Luck, who gets two new receivers and a potential upgrade along the line, which has been a major hole since Luck entered the league as the top overall pick in the 2012 draft.

Slauson has played both guard and center and is willing to do either with his new team.

Ballard’s biggest offseason move was the trade he pulled off Saturday.

He swapped first-round picks with the Jets, giving up the No. 3 overall pick to get the No. 6 pick and two additional second-round picks this year and the Jets’ second-round pick in 2019. That deal gives Indianapolis four picks in the top 50 this year and three picks in the first two rounds next year.

“We need to add some young talent to this roster,” Ballard told the team’s website following the trade. “So the ability to tab seven guys in the next two years who are all first- and second-round picks over the next two years was attractive to us.”

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