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The Journal Gazette

Friday, March 15, 2019 1:00 am

NFL

Colts sign own free agents, Panthers' WR

Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS – Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard reverted to his old free-agent playbook.

He re-signed his own players first.

Instead of making a big first-day splash, he barely made a ripple on the second day. And he's probably not finished yet.

As the first big wave of free-agency signings were announced Wednesday, Ballard made two under-the-radar moves – re-signing backup cornerback Chris Milton to a one-year deal and bringing back starting cornerback Pierre Desir with a three-year deal – before signing former Carolina receiver Devin Funchess to a one-year deal Thursday.

“We have a very strict criterion of what we want to bring in,” Ballard said recently. “We want players that want to get better, want to be great, want to be a part of the team, that are willing to sacrifice sometimes their individual stats for the betterment of winning and being a good teammate. If they fit into that criterion, absolutely they'll fit in.”

Ballard is betting on Funchess, Carolina's second-round pick in 2015. At 6-foot-4, 225 pounds, he gives Andrew Luck a bigger receiver than he's worked with in the past.

And if Funchess replicates what he did in 2017, when he caught 63 passes for 840 yards and eight touchdowns, he could emerge as the perfect complement to three Pro Bowl pass-catchers already on the roster: receiver T.Y. Hilton and tight ends Eric Ebron and Jack Doyle.

Last year, though, Funchess regressed. He had 44 receptions for 549 yards and four TDs and reinforced his reputation for drops. So Ballard reportedly gave Funchess a $10 million deal that could go up to as much as $13 million.

“I think the Colts are a great fit and I think they're ready to take that next step,” Funchess said Thursday during a conference call. “I think if we win the Super Bowl, everything will take care of itself.” 

The Colts went into free agency with the most cap space in the league, and if Funchess doesn't work out, the Colts could let him walk away next year and recoup all of their cap room.

Bears sign safety

Chicago signed former Green Bay safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to a one-year contract. Dix had 14 interceptions over five seasons with Green Bay (2014-18) and Washington (2018). The Packers dealt him to Washington at the trade deadline last season. 

Extra points

Kansas City agreed with defensive end Alex Okafor to an $18 million, three-year deal. ... Defensive tackle Malcom Brown agreed to a three-year contract with New Orleans. ... Oakland signed defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins to a two-year contract. ... Pittsburgh added depth at wide receiver, signing former Colt Donte Moncrief to a two-year deal. The team also re-signed veteran backup Eli Rogers to a two-year contract. ... The Giants agreed to terms with wide receiver Golden Tate on a four-year, $37.5 million contract that includes $23 million fully guaranteed, according to ESPN.