INDIANAPOLIS -- It was evident early on what Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard thought about the defensive unit he inherited when he was hired in late January.
Ballard started dismantling the 30th ranked defensive unit early on with the release of veteran linebacker D'Qwell Jackson. He later released defensive lineman Art Jones and cornerback Patrick Robinson and did not re-sign some of the other defensive free agents.
And if you want to take it a step further, the other 31 teams in the NFL evidently doesn’t think too highly of the defensive players the Colts had last season, either.
Of the 11 Colts defensive free agents or players released, only five of those players have signed contracts for next season.
Safety Mike Adams quickly signed with the Carolina Panthers, linebacker Josh McNary signed with Jacksonville, defensive lineman Zach Kerr signed with the Denver, cornerback Patrick Robinson signed with Philadelphia and defensive back Darius Butler re-signed with the Colts.
That’s also understandable considering how poor the unit was last season.
Three of the Colts' more prominent defensive players remain unsigned as free agency is now at the point where it moves at a snail’s pace.
Erik Walden looked like he may be in for a nice payday after he led the Colts in sacks with a career-high 11 last season. But at this point, the 31-year-old remains available on the market and looks like a player that just led a bad defensive team in sacks.
Jackson led the Colts in tackles in three of his four seasons and might have led them in that category last season, too, had he not gotten suspended for the final four games for using performance-enhancing drugs. Ballard released Jackson in early February out of respect for the veteran. Jackson still is available four months later. Turning 34 years old in September while also looking a step slower last season isn’t helping Jackson.
The same can be said about linebacker Trent Cole. The combination of turning 35 years old later this year to go with just five sacks in his two seasons in Indianapolis doesn’t make Cole an enticing free agent.
It will be interesting to see if a team is willing to take a shot on Jones.
Injury issues and a four-game PED suspension -- and not the five-year, $33 million contract he signed in March 2014 -- highlighted Jones’ three seasons with the Colts.
Jones only played 17 games in his three seasons in Indianapolis. He missed all of 2015 with an ankle injury, took pay cut in spring of 2016 only to miss the first four games due to using PED’s.