He could have swung for the fences, and no one but Pete Prisco and Nate Dunlevy would have criticized him for it. With nearly $50-million in cap space, more holes than a swiss cheese factory, and an owner willing to throw his 2012 Executive of the Year Award in the face of any doubter, Ryan Grigson had the figurative blank check in his hands.
But instead of signing the top-rated free agents, relying on getting 1 or 2 big-ticket names to patch those holes, Grigson relied on his scouting department to find pieces he felt fit his team's needs, without breaking the bank.
When the dust had settled and the sun had set on Tuesday, the Colts had signed 6 players - 5 from outside of the Colts organization - including 4 new starters. OT Gosder Cherilus and OG Donald Thomas weren't on anyone's radar, but they mark the biggest step towards remaking an offensive line that ranked near the bottom of the league in most useful metrics in 2012.
On defense, CB Greg Toler might be the steal of free agency: a talented, physical corner back, obscured by a 2011 ACL injury and by playing behind CB Patrick Peterson, Grigson plucked him up for 3 years, $15-million. And while no one will confuse Vontae Davis and Toler for the greatest shutdown duo of all time, it will be a massive upgrade over the Colts CB situation from last season - assuming both players can overcome health issues and play a full season.
The biggest shock of the day came from the linebacker position, where Ryan Grigson focused on two players no one in the history of the planet - including their parents - had heard of before: LB Erik Walden (formerly of Green Bay) and (you MUST say his name like this with a British Accent) Sir Lawrence Sidbury, formerly of the Falcons. We don't have anything more than secondhand information from twitter, but right now, it appears that Sir Lawrence Sidbury is little more than a depth guy.
Then there's Walden, who was ranked as the worst LB in the entire universe by ProFootballFocus. Now, I don't always agree with PFF's ratings (in fact, I rarely agree with them), but when someone is ranked the worst player at a position, I take notice. Walden has reportedly signed a 4-year deal worth $16MM, and, according to reports, has been all but guaranteed the starting spot opposite LB Robert Mathis.
I'll be honest with you: I don't know. Maybe Erik Walden is a good player. Maybe he's a great player. I haven't watched film on him, and even if I had, I probably couldn't tell you much more than everyone else is telling you: Erik Walden made around $700,000 last year, was rather unspectacular, and absolutely no one outside of Ryan Grigson and the Colts thought he would get any salary that included a 1 and was followed by that many zeroes.
And really, it's not even the money, but the fact that a guy with Walden's background - including a domestic dispute that sent his girlfriend to the hospital in 2011 - had absolutely no leverage. A 2-year "show me" contract would have been fine, and if he didn't want that, he could have moved on to the imaginary team that was willing to give him what he wanted. But as others have said, if this is Grigson's biggest mistake in free agency, it's definitely one that I, the Colts, and their salary cap structure, can live with.
My only critique of Grigson's first day of shopping would be this: you weren't 11-5 because you had a great team that needed minor tweaking. You were 11-5 because you have a great QB, a nice schedule, and a little Luck (gosh, that wordplay is never going to get old). Even after their signings, the Colts roster is still in need of some dynamic talent. Maybe that comes on day 2, when plenty of impact players are still available, and likely desperate to sign.
But for me, the player I wanted is already off the market. Louis Vasquez signed in Denver for 4-years, $23.5-million. I know, I know, someone will say, "dynamic... guard?" Okay, sure, no one will put Louis Vasquez in the dynamic category, but he is impactful, was one of the best players at his position and cost only slightly more than Erik F. Walden. I like the Donald Thomas signing, but there's no guarantee that he works out as a starter. Pairing Thomas with Vasquez would have been the kind of aggressive move that could have transformed Luck's offensive line from one of the worst in the league, to one of the best. Instead, they still have major questions at one guard position and the center spot. And if Thomas doesn't work out, they're left in basically the same position as last year: an interior so bad that it overrides any and all good done by the tackles.
Still, it's March 13th. There is a lot of time for Grigson to improve the roster, including the draft, where he had his most success last year. So while freaking out may be the hallmark of the twitter generation, the reality is that no championships are won in free agency, but looking at the Eagles last year, or the Redskins and Cowboys from years past, you could certainly argue they are lost.
Patient. Selective. More cost-effective signings. No one is going to confuse Ryan Grigson with Billy Beane and moneyball any time soon, but there's a good chance the Colts boss comes out looking like Brad Pitt when it's all said and done.
(Good, he'll look good. Because Brad Pitt is attractive.)
I said this in an earlier post and I'll say it again (since I do like to get my voice heard once in a while :D)
Although I'm not saying he isn't overpaid, or that he'll be an all-pro I don't think anyone FO bring in takes Freeney's spot.
I fully believe that Mathis moves into Freeney's spot and who ever is brought in to start (Walden, Sidbury, etc) will take Mathis's old spot.
I think we should be looking at the run and pass defending efficiency (not as much focus pass rushing). According to Kyle, Walden's 6th in run stop percentage and 10th in tackle efficiency. Even though his pass rushing has been ranked as awful (like worse than Hughes awful), I don't think he'll be playing that role as much. I think the stats stated above, and stats on his pass defense (if anyone has numbers for it) give a much much better picture of the type of player he'll end up being.
I'll prbly say this again until everyone stops freakin' out (or the colts sign someone new!)
While the Walden deal looks pretty wacky, at least it wasn't Philip Wheeler for five years, $26 million.
What's the time requirement around meeting the minimum salary cap? if these contracts are low in guaranteed money, that makes them easily dispensible which would make them smart moves. Its more difficult to find a diamond in the rough than to find a rough diamond.
While these names and performances are underwhelming, another popular time to pick up free agents is training camp/preseason roster cuts. Picking up the lesser, unproven player now gives the coaches time to evaluate the player. There are always known commodities/veterans available due to roster cuts before the season starts. You don't need time to evaluate an experienced starter.
If the coaches are unhappy w/ these signings during training camp, bulk up right before the season w/ cap casualites. A quality, experienced OL or CB won't need much time to pick up a new scheme.
Ian Rapoport "#Colts WR Donnie Avery is visiting the#Chiefs today, source says. KC still doing work after a busy few weeks"
All of a sudden Free Agency is looking up!
@hankster "The busy Kansas City Chiefs have agreed to terms with receiver Donnie Avery, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Avery is a nice player who can stretch the field. He had 60 catches for the Colts last season. He should be a solid No. 2 option behind Dwayne Bowe. I expect 2011 first-round pick Jon Baldwin will be the No. 3 receiver and the team also has the likes of Dexter McCluster and Devon Wylie. All three of those players have potential. Avery does have issues with drops, but he can also make big plays. He is a solid addition in Kansas City, which appears serious about improving from a disastrous 2-14 season in 2012. The Chiefs have been one of the busiest team in the NFL in recent weeks."
@zgs1288 Yup. The Colts no longer made the worst move in Free Agency. Maybe this means Grigson will bring in a WR.
I read that Walden's contract only guarantees 4 million. It doesn't seem like stupid money, for a rotational guy. Funny though that he was the worst 3-4 backer in the league. Theory: bigger name guys who don't go on day one, get antsy and sign shittier deals on day 2. Grigson could be an EVIL genius.... excellent ..../tents fingers
@naptown_ninja I hope that's the plan. With the money we had I was really expecting either Levitre or Vasquez. Thomas sounds like a good signing, but he is not a proven starter and that's really what the interior of the line needs. If the Colts had a full compliment of draft picks I would be a little less worried, but...
@naptown_ninja I LOVE this theory. Plus, it makes sense.
Vasquez deal was a bargain compared to walden's. He should have gotten the money. Even Brad Moore on the Jets would have been a viable alternative. If Grigson can pick up Landry from the Jets, and Jean-Francois from the 49ers, it still would be a great free agency period for this organization.
@unitas19 I wonder why they didn't get Vasquez. Did they even approach him? You'd think they'd want both guards upgraded.
Then again, maybe they're targeting O-line in the draft. Who knows? It's only the second year of this front office, and still one of the "aberration" years because of the 2-14 season, the amount of cap room, the departure of the old guard, etc... I don't think I'll have a handle on Grigson until the next off season specifically because he's been in scramble mode the first time and dealing with slightly unusual issues this time.
"...assuming both players can overcome health issues and play a full season." Gre-e-e-e-a-t. Health issues.
Wait! Health issues!?!? Someone alert Brad Wells about Toler's injury-prone nature. You know, because ACL injuries only happen to those who are prone to injury.
Count me among the baffled. I'm trying hard to not overreact and wait 'til the season starts. It seems like Grigson found some possible diamonds in the rough but those contract numbers seem risky. (Stay positive. Stay positive. Stay positive.)
Was Cherilus' contract really for 5 yrs/$34 million?
@bradicus18 Levitre signed for 5yr 60 with 27.5 garaunteed. Vasquez was 4yr 23.5 so we paid slightly more. Some outlets have Cherilus as better than Vasquez, especially in pass protection.
@GregC @hankster @cwjwl @bradicus18 Oh yeah, I'm not disagreeing with you. I was hoping, just like everyone else, we could land either Vasquez or Levitre. But we don't know, maybe Thomas will end up as good as those guys, or slightly worse. I'm just happy we got some kind of upgrades on the line (though it may not have been as much as I wanted, or the people I wanted).
@hankster @cwjwl @bradicus18 According to the Patriots subreddit on reddit, a lot of Pats fans really liked him. He was the backup to Logan Mankins (one of the best guards in the league) and still had a very positive grade from PFF on the season (I think over +10).
@bradicus18 What? 5/$34 mil really? We could have got Levitre or Vasquez for something like that and guard is pretty obviously a position of need.
@bradicus18 sorry, I should clarify:
Yep to your entire post. I agree with everything you're saying feeling, and yep, that's Cherilus' contract.