I have no idea if this is 100% true, but I believe Ballards intent was to re-sign Autry and Muhammed, and let Houston go for a high compensatory pick. Think about it, we already re-signed Muhammed. Before that, we tried to get Autry back, and he went with the Titans. Autry is younger, and he signed for 3 years $21,500,000. Houston is older, and will probably sign for a bit more a year. That means we would of not only got a younger player at EDGE, but we would of got a higher compensatory pick in that scenario.
Now Ballard didn't get Autry, is probably going to get a 5th for him or something along those lines, and has to decide whether to re-sign Houston for more, who is older, and not get the higher pick for him. After the draft, I believe you don't give or receive compensatory picks for signing FA's or getting your own signed. So that comes into play as well. Ballard has a big decision here, and he knows better than us if Houston is getting interest elsewhere right now, or if it's worth it to sign him for another deal.
Heck, Ballard may be interested in an EDGE rusher on day 1. Never know. We'll see.
You ask a lot of good questions. Unfortunately, I don't think that I, or anyone else, has a lot of good answers.
Here's what I think we know. Over The Cap has the Colts with just over $26 Mill. Spotrac shows less, and after the Carrie signing, I think we're going to be at $22.4 or so.
I also think we'd like to find a way to thread the financial needle and sign both Houston and Ertz (as a FA). Even if you allowed $12 Mil for that, (Houston $7 mill and Ertz $5m) that would leave us with roughly 10-$12 mill, give or take.
Currently, with our 6 picks, Spotrac shows that will take roughly $6.5 to sign them. But we all know Ballard has never had a draft class with less than 8 picks, so expect two more, and that will bring the money needed to sign them to roughly $8 Mill.
Suddenly, we'd be down to $2-4 Mill and change. Now, this is the part, where I don't know if @w87r will step in for more financial adjustments that will show that we will have a few more $ than my math shows. He's a wiz that way!
But typically, teams want 5-10% in reserve for in-season transactions. BUT.... can you afford to have that much in reserve when your cap has shrunk to $185? Yes? No? I don't know? Who knows?
So.... lots of questions that need answers.... and we just don't know? Both Houston and Ertz look like situations that might not resolve themselves until May...... So, we're left hanging....