I'll be honest, I haven't been the biggest fan of Ryan Grigson and the Colts' strategy in free agency.
That's not saying I think he's "lost" free agency or that he's a bad GM. As long as you don't kill your team's long term future in free agency, you're doing just fine. The danger of free agency is paying a huge contract to a risky player. Grigson avoided that, for the most part. As long as you don't ruin your team's chances in free agency and you draft well, you're a pretty good GM in my book. So far, Grigson has done both.
That being said, I do think that the Colts have let a very good opportunity go to waste this offseason. They had the money to dramatically improve their team with a good free agent class. While they certainly have improved the team without mortgaging the future, which is always a good thing, they could have been much more efficient and impactful had they played the market better.
Let's take a look at three deals to see the difference in what the Colts' did versus other deals on the market.
Gosder Cherilus 5-yr, $34.5 million, $15.5 million guaranteed
I like the Cherilus signing, to be honest. I like Cherilus and thought he could be a potential signing at right tackle. However, the contract that he got is out of whack when you compare it to similar players.
The other two top right tackles that have signed so far are Sebastian Vollmer and Phil Loadholt. Vollmer recently re-signed with New England on a steal of a deal, a 4-year, $17 million contract with just $8.25 million guaranteed. Vollmer is a better, more versatile player than Cherilus, so the fact that he signed for little more than half of what Cherilus received is remarkable.
Loadholt, on the other hand, is closer to Cherilus' overall talent level, and his contract wasn't the complete steal that Vollmer's was. Still, Loadholt's 4-year, $25 million contract with just $700,000 guaranteed is a much better deal than Cherilus' monster contract.
Greg Toler 3-yr, $15 million, $5 million guaranteed
Toler is a young player with a lot of potential, but he's also had a lot of injury issues. For some perspective let's take a look at Jerraud Powers' new contract, whom the Colts essentially switched with Toler. Powers also received a three-year contract, but it was only worth $10.5 million with $3 million guaranteed. Toler may be a slightly better player when healthy, when you take into consideration scheme bit, but is Powers only 2/3 the player Toler is? I don't think so.
Outside of those two, however, there were several corners who would have been better deals for the Colts' secondary. Toler has very little starting experience, and most of it came nearly three years ago. Other solid, proven starters got deals that weren't much more than Toler's.
Sean Smith got $16.5 million over three years with $7.5 mil guaranteed. Cary Williams got $17 million over three years, but just $5.75 million guaranteed. Meanwhile, Chris Houston re-signed in Detroit for $25 million over five years, the same average as Toler with only $4.5 million more in guaranteed money. Houston is a very capable starter, one of the top CBs on the market this year.
Toler has potential but is a bit of a risk with several safer, more proven options on the market for similar money.
LaRon Landry 4-year, $24 million with $11 million guaranteed
Landry's contract is arguably the worst of the Colts' free agency period (outside of Erik Walden's, which is just perplexing on so many levels).
The only big contract comparable to Landry's is William Moore. Moore is more talented player than Landry, and one of the top two safeties in free agency. He signed with Atlanta for five years for $28.25 million and $14 million guaranteed. Another comparable contract was Glover Quin, who signed with Detroit for $23.5 million over five years, with just $5.25 million guaranteed. Moore is definitely better than Landry, and Quin I would put slightly ahead of him.
Meanwhile there were several safeties that signed short, cheap contracts. These would be short term stop gaps, but really Landry shouldn't be much more than that anyway. Several solid starting safeties signed for around $2 million per year on short 1-2 year contracts, such as George Wilson, Kenny Phillips, Chris Clemons, and Bernard Pollard, a player very similar to Landry. The Colts will be needing to look for dynamic talent at safety soon, with or without the Landry signing. I would have rather seen a short term, cheap contract for one of those players (all who are very close to Landry's level).
I like Ryan Grigson. The overall direction of the franchise is a positive one right now, and Grigson's drafting so far has been great. Granted, it's a small sampling size, but it's been very good so far.
That being said, Grigson's lack of experience when he was hired was in scouting NFL players and team finances. He has a plethora of experience in scouting college players and preparing for the draft, but free agency is a weak spot, and it's shown in his tenure in Indianapolis so far. He hasn't ruined the team or anything, but it hasn't been particularly good either. It's a weak spot, and one that should be watched closely.
@ColtsAuth_Kyle Oh dear. And you thought stampede blue was bad...
@ColtsAuth_Kyle OMG! You have a different opinion than me! We must fight to the death now!!! Seriously, we can't all drink the same kool-aid
@ColtsAuth_Kyle WHO ARE YOU?!?!? I eat pickles and grapes (sometimes mangos) do you know more about football than me? They SAVED MONEY!!!!!?
@ColtsAuth_Kyle oh my....I can't even......wow
WHO ARE YOU?????WHAT YOUR NAME,LET ME START BY SAYING DON'T COUNT UR CHICKENS BEFORE THEY HATCH AND OTHER WANNA BE ANALYST SAID THE COLTS WOULD WIN 6 GAMES LAST YEAR' NOT'.......SO FOR AN AFTER THOUGHT I COPIED EVERY THING YOU WROTE SO I CAN SEND IT BACK TO YOU TO EAT YOUR WORDS NEXT SEASON WHEN THE COLTS MIGHT BE IN IT TO WIN IT!!!!!!!! #COLTS FAN.COM
@StampedeBlue Thanks for the shout out
Who the heck are you? Do you know any more than Me? I'm an engineer.... I leave the football stuff to the football people. Think about it, people jump a the big names and often flop. Most of these contracts can be terminated with little salary cap impact. Toler has potential to be a shut down corner, and I think the Landry signing was well thought out and a good move. Walden is a question mark, but I'll have to give some faith that they saw something, I still think he could have been had at half the price. They're not looking to convert another 4-3 DE like with Freeney and Mathis, they've got a pass rusher in Mathis, they're looking for someone to 'set the edge'. Not sure that's walden but it sure as heck isn't avril. Kruger hasn't done a dang thing in the NFL and is getting by on last years stats than performance. See, stats can lie, they can be used as an example but you can't quantify football players entirely on stats. Look at Luck, Gabbart and Fitzpatrick had better QB ratings than Luck, but watch those guys play and it's obvious who the better QB is. Lucks numbers were screwed by his system, no one completed(or attempted)more passed for over 20 yards than Luck. You'll see his numbers skyrocket in Pep's system. Grigson saw football players in these guys... the problem I have is that he paid many of them like they had the stats... still, if you look at the structure of the contracts, they can be released easily if they fail with little salary cap impact, with a couple exceptions.
I can buy into the fact that we may have overpaid for what we got, but take issue with your characterization of Grigson as 'weak' in evaluating NFL talent. He took a whole bunch of suspect talent and won 11 games with it last year. For me, that buys him the benefit of the doubt. He also is willing to stand up in front of the fans and discuss his perspective, something Bill Polian would never consider.
Let's let the 2013 season play out before fully evaluating this FA period. If Cherilus and Landry don't produce, we've got problems. Otherwise all the signings will have minimal impact beyond next year. With 3 draft classes to build this monster, all the free agents need to do is plug holes and add depth until the young guns like Luck, Allen, Chapman, etc get themselves established.
To that end, look for the Colts to go after a stud receiver with their first pick. If not, they should trade down and try to get a couple picks in rounds 2 and 3 so they can add a linebacker, corner back, and receiver. That should give us quite a team going into the season. Since Houston and Tennessee didn't make huge upgrades, and Jax is Jax, the Colts stand a good chance of another 10+ win season and a fight for division champ. If this can be the coming out year for Luck and crew, it could be fun. This team will be deep and not have major holes to work around.
I like the perspective, but the Walden signing is the only one so far I just think is super questionable. And even that one I am waiting till camps to see what he brings. Landry signing was my favorite. Except for an achiles injury he's now had surgery on, he's only missed one game in his career. Cherilus is who the Colts wanted. He was the target. Plus, we had the money to maybe over spend a tad. More I read on him, better the signing looks. Plus, you can't compare Volmer's contract as he resigned with his current team. Some players give the 'home team' discount if they want to return. Just look at Reggie's contract with us last year.
@ColtsAuth_Kyle isn't it really hard to say we didn't play the market considering we dont know what other teams were involved
Great points. Besides why the Colts signed Walden, the head scratcher for me is why the Colts didn't go after Vollmer. (They would have gotten a solid player and weakened a rival.)
Powers only plays 2/3 of a season, so, yeah, maybe he is only 2/3 the player of Toler. I think as fans we get too wrapped up in contracts and value per dollar. There were no contracts that strap the team for years to come. So it comes down to how the acquired players fit. Only time will tell. Once again, nice article Kyle!
Everyone has their opinion. I'm guessing that more than dollars went into these signings - like who fit the new system and who really wanted to come to Indy. Surprising it is, but not everyone wants to be a Colt. I like the additions. It has improved the team dramatically and added significant depth at key positions. Sure, a few of these choices may not work out but that's the risk with any free agent signing. Grigson avoided, for the most part, contracts with big dollars up front so the ones that fail can be let go in a year or two without much, if any, cap damage. His recent trade for Filli shows the Colts are far from done yet. I'm one of those Colts fans whose glad Grigson resisted the temptation to spend most of the cap dollars on two or three aging "stars". In large part we have a collection of young and improving players who can grow with the system. Go Colts!
yeah, but sometimes u have to overpay to get talent here, indianapolis isnt a prime free agent destination, and maybe these are Chucks players that he hand picked to get them signed and grigs did whatever possible to sign them, even if he had to overpay a lil, its too early to say he did a bad job in FA, give it at least half the season and see how the new guys play, before we give him a failing grade
@slash196 Heh. it just makes you appreciate all the nice readers who don't write in all caps.
@joefraserXII Every time a comment is in all caps (and it's not tongue in cheek), a kitten dies.
@AnotherColtsFan Oh my goodness that had me going. Thank you.
@T_Brookey I don't think I've had an all caps rant like that in a while. Always fun
@RitchieRybolt Uh, wow . . . where to even start . . .
@RitchieRybolt I hope they're in it to win it. And I hope each of these players play well. That has nothing to do with playing the market well in free agency, however.
My name is Kyle Rodriguez, more about me can be found on the following links:
I don't know if I know more than you, because I don't know you. But I do know that I many hours into watching film, analyzing stats, and studying the game, for whatever that is worth.
As far as the Colts go, I'm unsure what the main point behind your comment is. As I said in the article, Grigson hasn't jeopardized the team's future with these contracts, because of what you are saying. The contracts are huge guarantees. What my point was is that there were better deals to be had.
@S3CDave That's the thing, even if all of the talent pans out, almost every analyst thinks that it could have been had cheaper. In a system with a salary cap, you can't afford to overpay like this and still stay competitive. The market says that the Colts overpayed for the majority of the players that they signed, and that can cripple a team in different circumstances. Fortunately the Colts cap is fairly clean the next few years, so the signings won't kill them, but they could potentially have had more for less. And doing that is how you win in the NFL.
@S3CDave I didn't say he was weak in evaluating NFL talent, I said he lacked experience in scouting fellow NFL players and managing contracts/team finances. That's a completely true statement.
I said free agency looks to be a weak spot right now, based on the last two offseasons, the contracts given, and the market given. It's not a condemnation, every person has weaknesses in their job. It's somethign that can be improved upon.
@cwjwl There are many, many differences between Wayne and Vollmer's signing with the hometown. That's not really applicable. I like Cherilus being a target, but he should have been a cheaper signing, and that's agreed upon by most analysts. That being said, I'm still glad they signed him.
@DougEngland Vollmer has some back problems, missed some time so there was a higher risk degree associated with signing him.
@babyjesus107 I agree with the Landry deal as well. Bethea is a free agent after this year so nice to lock up the SS for multiple years.
@babyjesus107 It might be what they expect, not necessarily what a pro bowler deserves. Pro Bowl appearances have been rapidly losing their luster as anything worthwhile to judge someone for. Remember when Vince Young, David Garrard, and Matt Schaub were the headlining QBs?
@smonroe Both drafted in 2009. Toler has played 39 games. Powers has played 42. Toler has started 15. Powers has started 42.
@JohnTemple1 Added significant depth? At best it's rounded out a few positions. The secondary has 4 starters but not much else. The offensive line has 4 starters who hopefully will meld together, one who is bad, and no good depth behind them. The defensive line has three guys coming off of season ending (or preventing) injuries, one of whom has never played a snap in the NFL. We have three starting quality LBers, one potentially horrific signing, and one guy who's never been able to earn a ton of snaps with pretty much no one behind them.
I'd say the only position that truly has depth is the QB spot, which we drastically overpaid for, and I'd say it's the least important position for depth in my view because this team is not good enough to win anything without Luck under center.
@ColtsAuth_Kyle Anytime. I thought it was a well written, objective article.
@ColtsAuth_Kyle My recent favorite on my mock draft (actually posted on DIFF piece): "What the hell? This guys doesn't even NOW Colts!"
I blame all spelling errors on Bill Polian.
@Payton Toler missed all of 11. Powers quits playing by Thanksgiving.
@Payton @JohnTemple1 Perhaps, depth is a stretch. It will take more than one season to be two or three deep at every position. However, last years O-line and defensive secondary were horrendous and they manged to finish in the playoffs. The players they've added in both areas are a definite upgrade ( Thomas, Cherilus, Landry & Toler) . The new backup QB is a step up as well and he can win a game or two if need be - something Stanton couldn't do on his best day. Pairing Mathis with Ricky-Jean, Moala and the new nose tackle is also an upgrade over Johnson, Redding and a host of no names . The Colts should do a lot better stopping the run and giving Luck more offensive opportunities. I see our current weakness is right guard and perhaps a deep receiver, although I expect to see more short and medium passes from Pep's offense than Arian's throw it deep and pray Avery will catch it. Given the state of the AFC South, I don't see any reason the Colt's won't be in the thick of the conference champion race and back in the playoffs. A Superbowl is probably still down the road but I like where Grigson is heading. We'll see what he does in the draft - maybe some depth.
@AnotherColtsFan Thank you sir.
@T_Brookey Had a chance to check that article btw. Check DMs
@smonroe By virtue of missing an entire season, he's clearly up 11. However I'm more concerned than he hardly has any significant snaps in two years in addition to missing an entire year. That has to be a pretty valid concern, and I don't really see any other team offering him the starting spot on a silver platter AND the money we were offering him.
@JohnTemple1 Depth at almost all position groups is a weakness, if I didn't make that clear with my earlier post. I actually forgot about Franklin signing, but he has knee issues as well. We're up to 4 DL coming off season ending knee issues. If even half of them are sufficiently healed, I don't really see a way the DL could be any worse.
I'd say center and whichever guard that Thomas isn't playing are a weakness. I like Reitz, but he misses enough time I thought the Colts should have chased at least one more OG unless they are planning on drafting one.