"Off-season Champs, 10-years running." That's the typical barb tossed in the general direction of Daniel Snyder's Washington Redskins, who make a point of winning every free agency period with big splashes and fast money. Colts fans would eagerly join in the bashing, reminding everyone the key lesson they'd learned under their tutelage with Bill Polian: the best teams build through the draft.
Now, with a new GM, a new CBA, and, most importantly, nearly $50-million in cap space, Colts fans are singing a different tune. As Santa would call his Reindeer to the ready, so are Colts fans calling on recently-teamless NFL players: "On Levitre and Vasquez, and Paul Kruger, too. On Avril and Reed and Asomugha."
While 2012 will always be Grigson's most memorable off-season as GM - it was his first season ever as a GM, he cut Peyton Manning, drafted Andrew Luck, hired Chuck Pagano, saved a child from a runaway bus and put out 3 forest fires - 2013 may be his most critical. Not only will Grigson be doing something his predecessor never did - filling multiple gaping holes during a free agency period that demands you overpay anyone you sign - but he'll be irrevocably changing the roster and salary cap structure for the next 5 years.
If he nails it with the same skill and finesse as his 2012 work? The Colts will be Super Bowl contenders for the first decade of Andrew Luck's career. If he pulls off a flub job worthy of mention alongside Daniel Snyder and Jerry Jones? Well let's just say he'll likely be looking for his 2nd GM job sooner than we all imagined possible after the Colts remarkable 11-5 season.
But with that new CBA, the Colts must spend - at least 90% of the cap under the new rules - so Grigson won't have the option to be patient, to be choosy, to build entirely through the draft. He'll have to be aggressive, he'll have to spend money, and, most important, he'll have to be right.
[Tangential Aside: Am I the only one who thinks the players hit a home run with this CBA? By forcing each and every owner to spend to 90% of the cap - and by not having money-trading procedures built into the CBA - the players are now forcing not only the rich owners, but also the cheap ones, and the the draft-centric ones, to spend all the money. I don't know if it's good for the long-term health of the game, and I'm almost positive that it (along with Joe Flacco's new contract) will be a major bone of contention in the next CBA negotiations, but it's a great deal for the players for the next decade. Ok, off that soap box, back to the Colts.]
So who should the Colts pursue? Well, personally, I live my life a quarter mile at a time. Wait, wrong script, hold on, let me look through these papers, this desk is a mess. Okay, personally, I live by the philosophy of passing the ball and stopping the pass. With that in mind, I'd look to upgrade the two weakest areas on the team last year: the offensive line and the pass defense.
Offensive line is simple: find the best players and offer them contracts you're comfortable with. If they accept, do a little dance. If they decline, move on to your next target. Easy Peasy. Pass defense, on the other hand, could be upgraded through multiple avenues, all of which were weak spots on last year's squad.
First, we have OLB, where former Ravens LB Paul Kruger seems set to make a lot of money. Too much money, if you ask me. Kruger is a good, but not great player, but there are rumors of a bidding war that seems destined to drive his cost into the "great player" range. Texans OLB Connor Barwin could be a dark horse candidate for a contract.
If the Colts don't go the OLB route, they could use an upgrade in the secondary, either at CB or S. Cornerbacks are often in the LT category for FA contracts - way overpaid. Still, reformed bad boy Aqib Talib and former Dolphins CB (and Vontae Davis running mate) Sean Smith are interesting options.
But while both of those positions are in desperate need of a play maker, they aren't the biggest need on defense. That gaping hole belongs to the safety position, which actually received a huge boost from the insertion of S Joe Lefeged into the lineup. If Joe Lefeged is the answer, you need to fire the guy writing the questions. Keep an eye on Dashon Goldson, Ed Reed, and Louis Delmas.
Whichever position(s) Grigson decides to upgrade, he'll be "right." Other than QB, his roster is in need of a serious influx of young, dynamic talent. And while all Colts fans want him to build an all-star roster full of the greatest players ever, remember, Bill Polian avoided free agency for a reason. First, everyone who signs a contract today will be overpaid, it's just how the market works. Second, you never know every detail about these players - what are their personalities like, what's the chemistry like, how will they fit in your locker room. Finally, while it's not impossible to do, you have to be very smart as you navigate the salary cap land mines that free agency lays out for you. Dodge em, and you're fine. One misstep and you're in cap hell and looking to start another rebuild.
Note: Colts Authority will be hosting a live "radio" show/podcast at 4pm ET today (the start of Free Agency). Will discuss every piece of FA news as it breaks. Links and discussion thread will be posted here at 3:30pm ET. I hope you'll join us!
'The Cleveland Browns are closing in on a deal for Baltimore Ravens free agent outside linebackerPaul Kruger, according to Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun'
Could someone explain to me the sudden "Must sign Kruger or Avril" hysteria coming out of other outlets? I'm not in love with either. Kruger hasn't proven much and Avril is getting to the years where production can start to dip. Why cut one old 4-3 DE to sign another? In my opinion, OLB can be addressed in the draft.
I like Vasquez and Levitre as possible targets. Signing a FA S also sounds great. I'm just not in love with the FA OLB prospects. That there are a good number of draft options also makes a FA OLB a more difficult proposition.
@bradicus18 I can't explain it to you, because I don't want either of them especially at their likely price tags. I don't want another 4-3 DE playing 3-4 OLB.
Disclaimer: I'm well aware that Avril played 3-4 OLB in college. So did Robert Mathis. It didn't translate in him being able to play the run or cover anyone at the NFL level.
@bradicus18 Not that I'm jumping up and down for Kruger, but he is from a 3-4 not 4-3, plus he is only 27 yrs old compared to Freeney at 33 yrs. I believe he's an upgrade from Freeney based on age and scheme knowledge, but I also am not sure about the big dollars he may require.
@cwjwl You are right but I'm just not sold on Kruger. He may be an upgrade on 33 year old Freeney. However, he has one good year under his belt. I would just like to see more evidence and I also like the draft options.
Well, I for one hated not going after team needs in free agency year after year and then hoping we can pull something out of the draft in the 4th round. Having Peyton and the offense covered up many holes, but how much better could we have been? Many a Colt leaves and is barely heard from again. Skill level? That said, I hope we don't take this FA period and put ourselves in cap hell with too many big signings. Too often they don't work out. Signing a OL is a must. Replace Freeney at right price but maybe not Kruger at big $'s. Bring in solid CB and/or S. IF we overspend, keep it to 2-3 yr deal.
So if the Colts have $43M to spend, and they have to leave enough to cover drafted rookies & a few UFAs,About how much money do they have available to spend? (high 30s?)
Given the 90% floor, how much money do they HAVE to spend?
@Sandals Example, drafted Hilton mid 3rd. His contract last year was 530, but goes up every year and in year four he will make 800. I assume picks this year will start low and escalate roughly as his does.
@Sandals To try and answer. Cap is $123 mil. Based on reports we have 43mil to spend, I assume we have spent 80 on current contracts. 90% (actually 88.8 I think) means we must spend 110. So we have between 30 and 43. 1st round about 1.5mil, 3rd rnd about 600K. Say 550 per rest would be roughly 3.75 mil for draft if no trades as we have no 2 or 5. Round to 4 leaves 26-39 in FA money or resigning our own guys.
@cwjwl Thanks! So that range will give us a rough idea of when they MIGHT be done, when they MUST be done (barring other moves), and how many "A" level signings they can reasonably be expected to make (2-3).
@Sandals Yes, and watch the front or back end contracts. Signing player A to 4 yr 40 mil does not mean 10 mil this yr. Prob more like 7-8 unless we spend heavy this year since we have the space.
My wish list by next week. A level tackle (l or r). A level G. A or B level OLB. Upgrades at S, DL, and WR which all could be filled with B level talent. An added bonus would be an A level CB, but only if the price was good. Front load contracts as much as possible to push open cap space down the line and make it easier to cut someone later if necessary.
@Music Man That's one pricey wish list
@Kyle Rodriguez @Music Man Well we do have ALOT of money. I say we get Vasquez, Kruger (i like avril better though), Long (he is not gonna be TOO expensive 8-9 mill), Cason (underrated CB), and a few B-C level talents for defense mostly. The new offensive line will be SEXY with the additions. Dline will be MUCH better next year with Chapman and McKinney being healthy. LBs will look good. you got potentially 2-3 probowlers in that LB spot, CB will be a little short but with newly added depth, not bad. Davis 1, Cason 2, Powers 3. Safety needs improvement though. legefed aint gonna cut it. Overall i say 10-6 or 11-5 season with superbowl in sights. TRUST me. WE WILL LOVE LUCK when he has an above average Oline. HE WILL TEAR IT UP. 4,600 yards, 30 TDs, 12 INTs, 62.5% COMP
"Am I the only one who thinks the players hit a home run with this CBA?"
Sure hope so, they got absolutely destroyed from my perspective.
Good run down before we begin, now for the excitement.
@Ben Savage Agree. The players got the short end of the stick, by far. Greg, remember that the 90% number is over 4 years. A smart owner may keep well under that number until his star player is due for a new contract.