The 2013 NFL season is over. Now, all 32 franchises are in the offseason. Between now and early May, we'll all be obsessing over how our favorite team's roster will be molded, schemed, sculpted, and constructed in the new league year. We'll play the roles of soothsayer, philosopher, and critic. It's part of the offseason game, and, if you are reading this article and this blog, you're as much a part of it as any mock drafter.
For we writers at Stampede Blue - the No. 1 Colts blog on all the Internets! - the goal is to provide you, our lovely readers, not just the basic information and news on the team, but also our opinions. What we try and do is approach the offseason in two ways:
- How we'd like it to go
- How we think it will go
This article will touch on the former because, unfortunately, I get the sense Indianapolis' front office will take a very different approach than what we propose. I don't mean to suggest I know more or less about running a football team over someone like Ryan Grigson, but this is an opinion blog. My job, and the job of the other writers here, is to give you our opinions and, hopefully, spur discussion with them.
If what we think now turns out to be 100% dead, stinking wrong a year from today, that's fine. No one is right ad infinitum. Not even Ryan Grigson, who was getting the "In Grigson We Trust" treatment last year this time from fans only to see his star fall a bit as we enter the 2014 league year. After busting his 2013 free agent haul and receiving little return on his draft selections, more than a few of you here, and at least one blog elsewhere, are now saying that 2014 is a big year for Ryan Grigson.
For me, that translates: Grigson better hit home runs this offseason, or he should be fired!
I'm not saying I agree with that, but it's what I think whenever someone writes or says that 2014 is a big year for him. It implies that, if Grigson has another 2013, his job will belong to someone else in 2015.
For this offseason, which includes free agency starting on March 11th and the NFL Draft on May 8th, I personally think that Grigson and his front office should take a more measured approach. Last year, he wasted millions on mediocre/bad players like LaRon Landry, Greg Toler, Ricky Jean-Francois, and Erik Walden. All four will combine to count $19 million against the cap in 2014. To put that into perspective, Andrew Luck, Vick Ballard, T.Y. Hilton, and Dwayne Allen will count $8 million, with $6 million tied solely to Luck.
Grigson can't afford to waste money or draft picks on crap talent in 2014. The owner has made it clear that he expects results after making a significant investment. An 11-5 record is very good, but a 26th ranked run defense and a 20th ranked overall defensive unit won't cut it. Not when one of the primary tenets of the team's overall philosophy is to stop the run.
At present, the Colts have $31 million to play with in free agency. If they release under-achieving players like Samson Satele, Ricky Jean-Francois, and Greg Toler while cutting loose of veterans Cory Redding and Matt Hasselbeck, that frees up another $17 million.
$48 million is a lot to work with, and, if contracts are structured correctly, it gives Grigson two years. Two years before the Winter of 2016, when either he - or his replacement - will have to pay Andrew Luck more money than god, and, as a result, completely shift the roster dynamics of this team. Two years to win a Super Bowl with Chuck Pagano's brand of coaching, which is built around running the ball and stopping the run.
Speaking of stopping the run, remember back in July 2013 when Pagano said that the reason for the run defense's poor numbers in 2012 were injury-based? If you don't, here's the quote [emphasis mine]:
"We had guys coming in on Tuesday, getting the physical, practicing Wednesday and then starting the game on Sunday. So there's a lot of things that play into that (poor run defense ranking). We're going to get that thing shored up, and we're going to stop the run."
Six months later, the New England Patriots ran all over Pagano's porous defensive front in the divisional round of the playoffs. A defensive front that was not missing any key starters due to injury. A defensive front that had stayed healthy all season long, and yet still surrendered an average of 125 rushing yards a game.
2014 is a big year for Pagano as well, no matter what anyone in local Indianapolis media will tell you. Infer in that what you will.
We'll be spending the next week detailing how we think Ryan Grigson can accomplish the goal of building the kind of team he and Pagano want without flushing money (and cap space) down the toilet. We hope you enjoy it. If you don't, we at least hope it gets you thinking.