Currently, there is no salary cap. This means, in my mind, any talk of "salary ceiling" or a cap on expenses is ludicrous when it comes to the Colts.
In the past, the only thing holding a team like ours back from signing people was the cap. Now, it's gone, and I don't buy into any of this crap about keeping a "budget" and making "fiscally conservative" decisions. The bottom line here is winning, and since the Colts make a boatload of green because of Manning while, at the same time, playing in a very nice, new stadium for virtually nothing, I don't want to hear about anything other than the team doing absolutely everything they can to win.
If that means spending a ton of money on players, so be it. Again, with no cap come new expectations. Now, if the cap returns, and I very much hope it does, expectations on the roster change. I go back to fully and completely understanding the need fill holes with draft picks while signing our homegrown stars to big extensions.
That said, regardless of whether a cap returns or not, the Colts are going to sign Peyton Manning to a contract extension soon that will make him the highest paid player in football. If anyone complains about this, they'll get ignored and, possibly, laughed at. A quarterback who wins four league MVPs (an NFL record) can pretty much name his own price. And despite what some idiots may suggest, even with Manning demanding a hefty salary the Colts should still have more than enough money to sign other players.
Again, there's no cap. So, Mr. Irsay, don't feed me this bull about possibly not having enough to sign other potential free agents:
"You have to be careful with all of your signings to make sure you have enough money to spread around to all of the players," he said recently. "You look at guys like Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon. These are guys you're going to want to keep down the road.
"You've got to make sure you're able to do that."
Again, given that the Colts play in a stadium for free, and made a ton of bread last year after hosting two playoff games, including the AFC Championship (their second hosting in four years), I'm going to say that this team should have the money to pretty much sign whoever they want. Obviously, I have no access to the Colts books (they aren't made available to press and the public, which is a major point in the current labor talks), but I'm not so dumb as to just accept that the Colts will be cash-strapped after they pay Big P a mint.
That's a load of bull.
And for players like Collie and Garcon, both are up for free agency in 2012 and 2011, respectively, if Garcon goes out there in 2010 and has a better season than 2009, he'll warrant a better contract than his 6th Round rookie deal. However, the Colts cannot be stupid enough to pay him Reggie Wayne money, can they?
Now, if Garcon has an 80-catch, 1000 yard, 7 TD season, then yes; he'll warrant, and likely get, a big contract from either the Colts or someone else.
By the way, notice who is absent from the "guys you're going to want to keep down the road" category Mr. Irsay discussed? Just saying, as I duck behind the desk, waiting for the rocks to be thrown.
If the Colts are worried about re-signing someone like Antoine Bethea, then re-sign him now. Again, there is no cap, and I'm fairly certain you've got the money, Irsay. At the very least, you should have the money. Maybe that is why Antoine hasn't signed his tender.
The other big free agents looming are Melvin Bullitt, Clint Session, Adam Vinatieri, Charlie Johnson, Daniel Muir, and Antonio Johnson. Bullitt is a luxury, and whether or not the Colts re-sign him will have more to do with Bob Sanders than anything else. Right now, Bob Sanders' contract extension was a mistake. He's done very little to earn the 5-year, $37.5 million deal since signing it in December 2007. If Bob plays the entire (or most) of the 2010 season, bye-bye Bullitt. If Bob stays true to Bob's norm, and misses half or a significant chunk of the NFL season, it's likely bye-bye Bob, hello Bullitt. Session is a goner because that's what the Colts do to weakside backers (see Cato June and Freddy Keiaho as examples). Vinatieri will be 38 this time next year, and by then it will be time to move on from the future-Hall of Famer.
Charlie Johnson is a nice utility player, but not worth big money. This is why it is so crucial for Tony Ugoh to develop. If he doesn't, the Colts have a huge problem. Muir and Johnson are solid players, but neither will command big salaries. Likely the Colts keep Johnson because he plays the "overtackle" spot.
So, again, under the current conditions (no cap), I personally don't want to hear any crap about not being able to sign people. If and when a cap returns, then I can understand the need to be cautious. However, right now, we don't even know if there will be football past this season.
Just so people know where I'm coming from, when the talk involves dollars and cents (or sense), I am much less forgiving of the Colts now than I was ten years ago. We're not talking about a team that struggles with blackouts, or is caught up in some out-dated stadium deal. They don't have to share space with another team (like the Giants and Jets) or deal with any real local competition (because the Indiana Pacers suck right now). The Colts make A TON OF MONEY, and as a fan I expect that money to go back into the team. Jim Irsay was rich long before Peyton Manning was drafted #1 overall in 1998, and if all he is doing is pocketing the money a "team of the decade"-type club that Manning has generated, that would pretty much piss me off.
The money should go to the players who win the games. So, no offense, but if I hear one whiff about this club not being able to sign a player like Antoine Bethea because of "Manning's contract," I might just lose my mind. This club most certainly has the money, and if they are unwilling to use that money to make the team better, that is an insult to the paying fan.