Indianapolis Colts general manager Ryan Grigson concedes he’s taken his fair share of chances in free agency in four years.
The results have tilted toward not receiving the return on the expected investments, the misses most notably with safety LaRon Landry, offensive tackle Gosder Cherilus, outside linebacker Trent Cole and wide receiver Andre Johnson, among others. The shorter list of players who have delivered include safety Mike Adams, inside linebacker D'Qwell Jackson and defensive end Kendall Langford.
But when Grigson spoke to reporters at last week’s NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium, he acknowledged the Colts won’t be in position to spend as much on free agents when the signing period commences March 9.
The Colts have $4,950,629 in rollover salary cap space from 2015. The cap for next season has been set at $155.27 million. The projected cap space, according to overthecap.com is $25,370,087, which ranks 17th in money available.
That number could change if veterans such as Johnson and Cole are released. Johnson’s release would save $5 million. Cole’s release would kick back $6.125 million.
“I think every year you’re going to have to take a slightly different approach, but the emphasis is always obviously on winning and being able to acquire the number of resources you need to get the pieces that you think you need,” Grigson said. “We’re as good as our evaluation skills as those players we pick. But every year obviously you’re trying to overcome different hurdles whether it be specific position groups, whether it be money constraints and so forth.
“I would say this year is a little different than in years past just because of some of the financials we have on the horizon; somewhat like 2012, where we tightened our belt. We had to scout our rear ends off though. That’s a challenge and it’s something that we enjoy doing. It’s fun.”
The largest financial on the horizon is obviously quarterback Andrew Luck, who is entering the final year of his rookie contract. Owner Jim Irsay has said he would like to get Luck signed to a long-term extension, which likely means the three-time Pro Bowl passer will count between $20-25 million per season on a new deal.
So don’t expect the Colts to make many big splashes in free agency. While the nature of free agency is to overspend, the team will need to be more sensible in the contracts given to new players.
Grigson was asked about why his defense hasn’t progressed despite money being spent to address concerns. The Colts ranked 26th in total defense after finishing 8-8 and missing the playoffs for the first time since 2011.
“You can take two different approaches. You can play it safe, scream from the rooftops and build through the draft. I feel like we were in a position to take swings at the plate,” Grigson said. “I know I’d be standing up here if we didn’t (with reporters asking), ‘You’ve got Andrew Luck. Why the heck aren’t you guys taking a run at any of these guys?’ But our owner knows it. He knows that the house usually wins in free agency. He’s told me that before we make those moves.
“But that just speaks to the culture. I think that is why no matter who has sat in my seat or in (head coach) Chuck Pagano’s seat, that Jim’s expectations of the organization have always come to fruition because of the bar. And that’s to win. So that’s why I think that mindset of knowing that you’re going to make mistakes, but dusting yourself off and trying again, that’s the culture at our place. That’s why we expect to build this into a championship team still off of 8-8 to get back to where we were.”
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