INDIANAPOLIS — Chris Ballard hopes he's finally found his big, possession wide receiver.
Devin Funchess hopes a change of scenery will lead to a bigger payday down the road.
The two parties reportedly agreed to a one-year deal worth up to $13 million that will bring the former Carolina second-round pick to Indianapolis next season.
The contract was first reported by NFL Network's Tom Pelissero and is believed to include $10 million in guaranteed money. The NFL's annual two-day negotiating period began at noon Monday, allowing teams to negotiate with outside free agents. Deals can be agreed to in principle, but nothing can become official until the league year begins Wednesday at 4 p.m.
In Funchess, the Colts are adding a big target (6-foot-4, 225 pounds) with a surplus of potential and a history of inconsistency.
Drafted 41st overall out of Michigan in 2015, Funchess' best season for the Panthers came in 2017 when he caught 63 passes for 840 yards and eight touchdowns. All three numbers represent career highs.
He played in just 14 games last season, and his numbers dropped to 44 receptions for 549 yards and four scores. In four seasons with Carolina, Funchess had 161 catches for 2,233 yards and 21 touchdowns.
It's a resume very similar to tight end Eric Ebron, a first-round pick by Detroit in 2014, who was released by the Lions last offseason and thrived with Indianapolis. In head coach Frank Reich's scheme, Ebron made the Pro Bowl for the first time and set career highs with 66 catches, 750 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Reich, offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni and former tight ends coach Tom Manning sold Ebron on the specific role he'd have in the offense, even breaking down film with him during his visit to help visualize the fit.
The result was a signing that improved Indianapolis' offense and raised Ebron's future earning potential.
The plan likely is similar with Funchess, but Ballard doesn't enter into any agreement easily.
The third-year general manager has a very defined profile of what a Colt looks like, and he shared that vision again during the NFL Scouting Combine two weeks ago at the Indiana Convention Center.
“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,” Ballard said. “If they fit into that criteria, absolutely they’ll fit in (with the locker room). But it is going to be a strict criteria, and I think the locker room is looking at every moment who you bring in.
“At the end of the day, winning is what drives us all, and the locker room wants to win. They want to add as much talent, too. But saying that, they want to add talent that fits in with what we stand for.”
Funchess evidently met that criteria and will have an opportunity to play opposite No. 1 target T.Y. Hilton. It's a role the Colts struggled to fill last season with offseason addition Ryan Grant and later in-season free agent Dontrelle Inman.
Indianapolis also tendered resticted free agent wide receiver Chester Rogers and exclusive rights free agent Marcus Johnson on Monday, keeping them in the fold. Second-year wide receiver Deon Cain also is working his way back from a season-ending knee injury and is expected to be in the mix after a strong spring and summer as a rookie.
The Colts also offered restricted free agent tenders to offensive lineman Evan Boehm and safety Matthias Farley. Long snapper Luke Rhodes was tendered as an exclusive rights free agent.
Indianapolis entered the offseason with the most salary cap space in the NFL — roughly $102 million — and has nine picks in next month's draft.