Colts’ Chris Ballard Delivers Message to Team’s Ex-Pro Bowler

Chris Ballard

Getty Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard had a message for one of the team's leaders.

One of the biggest problem with the 2022 Indianapolis Colts was the team’s highest-paid players failing to live up to their expectations. Perhaps the team’s most disappointing player was center Ryan Kelly.

Colts general manager Chris Ballard told the media the team plans to keep Kelly for the 2023 season. But Ballard was also frank about his expectations for the center and other expensive players on the roster.

“Our best players have to play better,” Ballard told the media. “And we have to play better as a team.”

The longest-tenured Colts player, Kelly is entering his eighth season with the organization.

Colts to Keep Ryan Kelly for the 2023 Season

Entering the offseason, Kelly was a possible cap casualty for Indianapolis. The center, who is set to turn 30 on May 30, will carry a $12.375 million cap hit for the 2023 season.

The Colts could have cut Kelly and saved nearly $8 million against the cap. Ballard also explored trade options for the center before deciding to retain Kelly for 2023.

“We had some (trade) calls on them, but at the end of the day, they’re good football players for us and they’re good people,” Ballard told the media. “When you got a good football player that is a great person and a good fit, it makes it hard to move away from those guys.”

Kelly made the Pro Bowl three straight years from 2019-21. From 2018-20, Pro Football Focus ranked Kelly a top 10 center in the league.

But his PFF player grade dropped Kelly to the bottom 10 centers in 2021. He remained just average according to the PFF grading system in 2022.

Kelly was a second-team All-Pro player in 2020, but two years later, he didn’t receive any accolades.

In addition to the money he’s owed in 2023, Kelly’s contract is set to pay him $14.625 million in 2024. On an average annual salary basis, Kelly will be the fifth-most expensive center in the NFL next season.

The Colts need their veteran center to play up to that contract.

Colts Also Keeping Kenny Moore II for 2023

Ballard’s response about the possibility of trading Kelly referred also to cornerback Kenny Moore II. Moore is a little younger and cheaper (27 years old and an $8.2 million cap hit), but he was another trade candidate that Ballard has now decided to keep.

“They’re both great Colts, and we’re glad they’re here,” Ballard said. “Right now, they’re Colts and for the foreseeable future I see them being Colts.”

The Colts can’t really afford to depart with anymore veteran cornerbacks. This offseason, Ballard traded Stephon Gilmore to the Dallas Cowboys to create $9.9 million in cap space.

Fellow cornerback Isaiah Rodgers also left in free agency, signing a contract with the Las Vegas Raiders.

Cornerback is one of the biggest needs on Indianapolis’ entire roster. It may be the team’s biggest need outside of quarterback. That could have played a role in Ballard’s decision to keep Moore.

But like Kelly, Moore will need to play better in 2023 to be part of the team’s long-term plans. Moore is due to be a free agent next offseason.

He held out of offseason workouts last summer in the hopes of landing a contract extension. The Colts didn’t budge, and Moore had a disappointing 2022 campaign.

He will need to play like he did in 2020 and 2021 to earn an extension next year.

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