Make no mistake, big free agent signings rarely result in winning football. The big signings last season were Edgerrin James goings to Arizona and Terrell Owens signing with the Cowboys. Neither signing worked out. The signings that did matter were ones that, while not under the radar, were not exactly big splash signings: Drew Brees to New Orleans and Adam Vinatieri to Indianapolis.
Great teams are built from within, using the draft to build up talent inside your organization. I've had this argument with Grizz at BTB many times. He, and many Cowboys fans, felt that buying up a bunch of free agents in a big spend move to win-it-all-now would work.
In fact, the guys that really helped the Cowboys this past season, like Tony Romo, were homegrown guys. They didn't need Owens or Mike Vanderjadt to make the playoffs last year. The guys that really contributed for them (Romo, Jones, Barber, Witten, Ware) were all homegrown within the organization, and all should give Cowboys fans hope.
Free agents can certainly put you over the hump, but they can't get you there. The Colts would have made the playoffs without Adam Vinatieri. They would not have won a championship without him though. So with this off-season upon us, we get to see our teams wiggle for cap room in an attempt to sign or re-sign a player. Because of this, free agent signings seem more special in the NFL than signings in, say, baseball.
Currently, out of the 32 NFL teams, the Colts have the most money wrapped up in players, about $108,800,000. That leaves them with, roughly, $200,000 in cap space. The feeling is the Colts will convert Peyton Manning signing bonus into a roster bonus or a Christmas bonus or something like that, freeing up about $8,000,000 in cap space. They could also cut Brandon Stokley and Corey Simon in an effort to free up cap space. Simon is the big cap anchor. He is counting $6,550,000 against the Colts cap for 2007. If they cut him before March 2, they take a $1,530,000 hit (small by NFL standards), and free up $5,000,000 in cap space. If they cut Stokley, they get about $2,800,000 in additional cap room.
When confronted with these cold, hard economics, it looks like Corey and Brandon are goners. The Colts won the Super Bowl without them, and they are costing a boat load of cash. So, with Manning's bonus re-worked and both Corey and Brandon cut, the Colts get $15,800,000 in cap space to re-sign guys like Nick Harper, Rob Morris, Dan Klecko, Cato June, and Dwight Freeney. Plus, if they have left over, they could get someone like WR Drew Bennett or former Colt Jerome Pathon, or maybe a player like DT Robaire Smith or maybe Polian makes another run at a Patriots free agent and tries to snatch up Asante Samuel.
Bottom line is the Colts will have enough to retain most of their roster, and they most likely will make a move that is unexpected. No one expected them to sign Vinatieri last year. No one expected them to trade for Booger McFarland. At least they should have some green to make a strong run at repeating.