Colts Resume Julian Blackmon Talks; Team Offered Danielle Hunter More Than Texans

Operating as a retention-based GM who has shied away from big free agency pickups during his eight-year tenure, Chris Ballard continued work in this area this offseason. The Colts extended Michael Pittman Jr. and re-signed Kenny Moore, Grover Stewart and Tyquan Lewis.

Indianapolis, however, still wants more help in the secondary. Moore has worked as the team’s slot cornerback for seven years, and while his new deal takes care of that need, the Colts could use assistance on the outside and at safety. Ballard confirmed the team is looking to add in the secondary, confirming (via the Indianapolis Star’s Nate Atkins) they are considering more options in free agency. One of them, in Colts fashion, is a player whose Indianapolis rookie deal just expired.

Ballard confirmed (via ESPN’s Stephen Holder) the Colts have reengaged in talks with Julian Blackmon. The four-year starter had visited the Bills and 49ers but has not landed a deal. A Colts reunion has been in play for a bit, and considering the retention the team has already gone through with on Gus Bradley‘s defense, a second Blackmon contract would not surprise.

It is certainly possible Blackmon’s asking price led the Bills to sign Mike Edwards, who began last season as a Chiefs backup before moving into the lineup due to a Bryan Cook injury. Indianapolis had targeted Edwards as well.

The Colts used Blackmon at different spots in Bradley’s scheme, and the former third-round pick will not turn 26 until just before the season. He notched career-high marks in INTs (four), tackles (88) and passes defensed (eight) last season, but this year’s safety market — beyond Xavier McKinney — stalled due to an unexpected surplus that formed in free agency just before the new league year.

One of the few players among PFR’s top 50 free agents who has not landed a deal, Blackmon has likely been impacted by the crowded market. A few teams released high-profile safeties, leaving the likes of Justin Simmons, Micah Hyde, Quandre Diggs, Jamal Adams, Eddie Jackson and Marcus Maye unsigned. It is possible Blackmon could take a one-year deal in hopes of reestablishing his value. Nick Cross has been unable to establish himself as a starter, while Pro Football Focus rated Blackmon sidekick Rodney Thomas 78th at the position last season.

Their largely in-house offseason mission notwithstanding, the Colts did pursue Danielle Hunter. The Texas native chose Houston, but Holder adds Indianapolis offered more money. That said, it would be a bit surprising if the Colts’ proposal included more guaranteed money than Hunter received. The Texans gave the longtime Vikings edge rusher a $49MM deal that came nearly fully guaranteed; the 10th-year vet locked in $48MM at signing.

The Colts saw improvement from homegrown rushers Kwity Paye and Dayo Odeyingbo last season; the 2021 first- and second-round picks, respectively, totaled 8.5 and eight sacks in 2023. Samson Ebukam, who came over from the 49ers last year, led the team with 9.5 sacks. Hunter would have been an interesting addition capable of creating a formidable top four for Indy, but he has a clear-cut opportunity to start opposite Defensive Rookie of the Year Will Anderson Jr. in Houston.

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