Chris Ballard and his FO team are are nothing if not prudent about the allocation of dollars. I don’t want to just say that they’re cheapskates - they’ll spend money when and where they need to. But they are nothing at all like those FOs that go out and drop big dollars on (ostensibly) big names to (ostensibly) beef up the roster.
Building through the draft, as you say, is clearly the best primary strategy for roster construction. Unfortunately, that also means having to make some tough choices on vets who have earned raises come contract time.
I think his reputation hurts him too. He's known to be grabby and the refs seem to pay special attention to him. Some of the PI calls made on him are not made on other DBs. Yes, they were good calls, but they're also sometimes ignored.
I know the same thing can be said with just about any call (sometimes they call it, sometimes they 'let them play'). IMO, he hardly ever gets the benefit of the doubt.
This is the key.
The lack of competent over the top safety help in the last half/third of the season made him look bad too. And there were a couple of prominent plays.
He was definitely not good enough to play man without safety help, but very few CBs are.