Judging from the tenor of Jim Irsay's tweets and the angst in the 18to88.com comments section, Colts fans are frustrated. Apparently, they thought the Colts were going to be active in free agency.
I can't imagine why.
Let's tackle the popular misconceptions floating about out there:
1. The Colts were players for major free agents.
All off season, Colts fans were bombarded with articles about the 'regime change' in Indianapolis. Articles about Reggie Bush were bandied about. Maybe the Colts would sign free agents!
It was always nonsense.
The Colts' transition has been gradual. Yes, Chris Polian is taking a more public role, but he's been heavily involved with running the team for years. Indy is and always was going to stick with the same formula that's worked for a decade: avoid free agency like the plague.
The Colts were only ever in the market for a starting safety. The best one went off the board when the Chargers overpaid to keep Eric Weddle. The Colts responded by resigning Melvin Bullitt.
Other than that, Indy might still pick up a veteran offensive or defensive tackle down the line, but it won't be anyone to get fans excited. That's not how the Colts build. It never was. Any speculation that the Colts were going to change their M.O. was ridiculous. Guys like Reggie Bush were never coming to Indianapolis. Never.
2. Peyton Manning's contract holdup is hurting the Colts.
There are lots of myths about this. While Indy is currently 'over the cap', that's not stopping the Colts from signing players. Indy doesn't have to get under the cap until August 4th. In other words, they can still sign players now without the cap relief coming from Manning's deal. They don't have to wait to sign Peyton to sign other players. If a deal is even mostly done, they are free to sign guys now knowing the cap space will be there August 4th.
The truth is that the Colts don't want to sign free agents.
Beyond that, there are two important things fans should realize:
First: Peyton Manning made $21 million against a cap of $127 million in 2009.
Those arguing that Manning is killing the Colts cap and that he should take $20 million going forward are ignoring the massive amount of cap room he's taken up for three seasons now. They are also arguing he should take a pay cut. And why? So the Colts can sign free agents! But the Colts aren't going to (and never were going to) sign free agents.
Second: Manning's contract isn't the problem. Good players making big money doesn't hurt a team. Teams are hurt by bad/hurt players making big money. Enter Bob Sander's dead money and Kelvin Hayden's albatross contract. That money is what is keeping Indy's cap tight. Those contracts were controversial at the time (I backed both). They were both awful deals in hindsight.
Blaming the likes of Manning and Freeney for occupying nearly $40 million in cap space between them is a mistake. Bad players cost teams, not good ones.
3. Free agency is a good move for teams.
It's a disaster. The numbers don't lie. Something like 60% of the players signed this week will be disasters. Less than 10% will be Pro Bowl players.
The good teams aren't signing players. The Patriots have pulled off trades, but has anyone noticed what the Steelers, Packers, and Ravens have done this week?
Nothing but sign their own guys.
The Jets did sign a big play wideout, but they still have the same quarterback who couldn't hit the wideouts they already had.
Most good players that are free agents stay with the team that had them. Eric Weddle stayed in San Diego. Mebane is likely to stay in Seattle now. If a team lets a player go via free agency, more often than not there is a reason.
4. Albert Haynesworth would have been good for Indianapolis
Haynesworth's price tag is more than $5 million and a 5th round pick. It's also reps in camp. The Colts have two promising young DTs in Moala and Drake Nevis. Taking reps away from developing young players to give them to old malcontents is a losing strategy.
Colts fans should be THRILLED Haynesworth isn't in Indy. He's not like Randy Moss or Corey Dillon. They were younger, talented players in bad organizations. Haynesworth is a bad human being with a history of violent and uncivilized behavior.
Don't buy the Belichick hype. I don't think he can save Haynesworth's career. The man is woefully out of shape.
Haynesworth is the kind of guy that should be brought in for the league minimum, if then. The Pats didn't pay much, but they did overpay.
The Colts did this same move in 2005. The guy's name was Corey Simon...only he was still just 28.
5. The AFC South is catching up.
I love how now that Clint Session signed in Jacksonville he's suddenly a good player. If Indy had resigned him, it would have garnered a collective shrug from the media. The fact is that the Jaguars got ok players, but way overpaid for them. Most importantly, they didn't get better where it mattered: the secondary.
The Texans got a nice signing in Joseph from the Bengals, but he didn't play that well against Indy last year, and is often hurt. Houston needs more than just a couple of corners to field a defense.
The Titans got Hasselbeck, but he hasn't posted a rating over 75.1 in three seasons.
The South isn't much better today than they were last week.
It's natural for fans to get worked up. Everyone has been missing football for months and many in the media misled fans about how active the Colts would be.
The truth is that Indy has a lot of low tier free agents of their own. Keeping them or losing them was never all that important.
I'm not a big believer in the Colts defense, I'm on the record. I wanted the Colts to upgrade at safety, but given the money Weddle got, I have to think Bullitt was the better solution. This is the problem: there are no quick fixes. Indy's best chance to upgrade at tackle is the draft. They took Nevis. Now they have to wait for him to develop. That's how it works. Indy needs to develop a young safety, but there wasn't one to be had in the draft. There's no way they could or should pay stupid money to Weddle when contracts to a safety and non-elite corner are already what is hurting the team.
It's not worth overpaying average to goodish players just to gain minuscule improvement.
Indy does need to get better, but help is not out there. The smart teams are all doing the same thing: nothing.
Standing pat is better than making a mistake.