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How Ryan Grigson Poorly Built the Colts

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Stampede Blue's Andrew Aziz explains how Ryan Grigson poorly built the Colts and how the team is not set up properly for long-term success.

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Colts general manager Ryan Grigson has been getting a lot of criticism recently for the way he's built the team. His critics have said that the defense lacks talent, the offensive line is leaky despite and he's handed out big contracts to players who have under-performed.

Free Agency Signings & Draft History

Here is a list of the major (average annual salary of at least $2M) signings of the Grigson era:

- Frank Gore (3 years, 12M total)

- Trent Cole (2y, 14M and 1y, 4.25M)

- Andre Johnson (3y, 21M)

- Kendall Langford (4y, 17.2M)

- Todd Herremans (1y, 2.25M)

- D'Qwell Jackson (4y, 22M)

- Arthur Jones (5y, 33M)

- Hakeem Nicks (1y, 3.5M)

- Gosder Cherilus (5y, 35M)

- Greg Toler (3y, 14.25M)

- Erik Walden (4y, 16M)

- LaRon Landry (4y, 24M)

- Ricky Jean-Francois (3y, 9M)

- Matt Hasselbeck (2y, 7.25M and 1y, 3M)

Here is a list of players that Grigson has drafted in the first 4 rounds:

2012

- Andrew Luck (Round 1)

- Coby Fleener (2)

- Dwayne Allen (3)

- T.Y. Hilton (3)

2013

- Bjoern Werner (1)

- Hugh Thornton (3)

- Khaled Holmes (4)

2014

- Jack Mewhort (2)

- Donte Moncrief (3)

2015

- Phillip Dorsett (1)

- D'Joun Smith (3)

- Henry Anderson (3)

2016

- Ryan Kelly (1)

- T.J. Green (2)

- Le'Raven Clark (3)

- Hassan Ridgeway (4)

Of the listed players drafted between 2012 and 2015, only eight remain on the team. No 5th, 6th or 7th round picks from the 2012 to 2014 NFL Drafts are on the roster.

Grigson has been very hit or miss with his free agency signings and his draft classes. For example, he absolutely nailed his first draft class and made the most of the 2014 draft class. His 2013 draft class was a bust and we have yet to see a major, consistent impact from any player from the 2015 draft class. Henry Anderson has had his moments, but has had issues with injuries and hasn't been performing extremely well in 2016. D'Joun Smith isn't even on the roster anymore and Phillip Dorsett, like Anderson, has had some good games, but he hasn't been consistent.

How the Colts Allocate Their Money

Position (Number of Players)

Cap Dollars

Average Cap Dollars Spent Per Player

Percentage of Cap

Quarterbacks (2)

$19,900,000

$9,950,000

13.22%

Running Backs (5)

$5,653,333

$1,130,667

3.76%

Wide Receivers (7)

$15,201,471

$2,171,639

10.10%

Tight Ends (3)

$11,027,250

$3,675,750

7.33%

Offensive Line (11)

$20,933,757

$1,903,069

13.91%

Defensive Line (8)

$10,688,506

$1,336,063

7.10%

Linebackers (9)

$22,335,196

$2,481,688

14.84%

Safeties (6)

$4,977,369

$829,562

3.31%

Cornerbacks (5)

$16,288,230

$3,257,646

10.82%

Special Teams (3)

$6,750,000

$2,250,000

4.49%

Total

$133,755,122

$2,523,681

88.88%

Source: Spotrac

It is worth noting that there is an additional $15,504,702 in dead cap money and there are other adjustments that aren't listed in the table that are made. The Colts have the 11th highest dead cap money figure and their figure is larger than the NFL average of $13,311,054. It is also worth noting that this is the entire Colts roster and not just the active roster.

How Top Teams Allocate Their Money

How do top NFL teams allocate their money? Firstly, let's define top NFL teams as teams who have made the playoffs in each of the last two seasons. Those teams would be Arizona, Carolina, Cincinnati, Denver, Green Bay, New England, Pittsburgh, Seattle.

From there, let's only look at teams with a "high-end" quarterback. We'll define "high-end quarterback" as a quarterback who makes more than $20,000,000 per year on an average yearly salary basis. That eliminates Cincinnati and Denver, leaving us with 6 teams. The point of only looking at teams with high-end quarterbacks is because we want to properly compare those teams with the Colts, who have one in Luck, so we cannot compare a team without a high-end quarterback to a team who has one.

Let's take a look at how these 6 teams spend their money. Here is a breakdown of how these teams spend their cap dollars (with an averaged out table) on their entire roster (active + non active). I chose the entire roster because it takes into account injured players that wouldn't be counted had I chosen to look at just the starters or just the active roster. So, while there may be a few misleading figures (e.g. the "Average Cap Dollars Spent per Player" figure for quarterbacks), using the entire roster is the most accurate way of breaking down the situation.

Arizona Cardinals

Position (Number of Players)

Cap Dollars

Average Cap Dollars Spent Per Player

Percentage of Cap

Quarterbacks (2)

$20,875,000

$10,437,500

13.17%

Running Backs (5)

$5,054,463

$1,010,893

3.19%

Wide Receivers (7)

$26,889,698

$3,841,385

16.97%

Tight Ends (5)

$5,880,771

$1,176,154

3.71%

Offensive Line (11)

$19,101,754

$1,736,523

12.05%

Defensive Line (9)

$23,610,366

$2,623,374

14.90%

Linebackers (10)

$18,229,222

$1,822,922

11.50%

Safeties (6)

$11,907,598

$1,984,600

7.51%

Cornerbacks (7)

$19,183,844

$2,740,549

10.82%

Special Teams (3)

$1,434,323

$478,108

0.91%

Total (65)

$152,167,039

$2,341,031

X

Source: Spotrac

Carolina Panthers

Position (Number of Players)

Cap Dollars

Average Cap Dollars Spent Per Player

Percentage of Cap

Quarterbacks (3)

$22,310,000

$7,436,667

16.11%

Running Backs (4)

$11,174,563

$2,793,641

8.07%

Wide Receivers (6)

$7,435,189

$1,239,198

5.45%

Tight Ends (3)

$7,957,836

$7,857,836

5.75%

Offensive Line (11)

$24,988,953

$2,271,723

18.05%

Defensive Line (8)

$15,934,963

$1,991,870

11.51%

Linebackers (6)

$17,241,371

$2,873,562

12.45%

Safeties (6)

$5,745,679

$957,613

4.15%

Cornerbacks (6)

$4,130,183

$688,364

2.98%

Special Teams (3)

$7,893,290

$2,631,097

5.70%

Total (56)

$123,812,027

$2,210,929

X

Source: Spotrac

Green Bay Packers

Position (Number of Players)

Cap Dollars

Average Cap Dollars Spent Per Player

Percentage of Cap

Quarterbacks (2)

$19,830,908

$9,915,454

12.82%

Running Backs (6)

$4,939,901

$823,317

3.19%

Wide Receivers (6)

$19,907,088

$3,317,848

12.87%

Tight Ends (3)

$4,089,004

$1,363,001

2.64%

Offensive Line (9)

$21,481,350

$2,386,817

13.88%

Defensive Line (7)

$14,408,620

$2,058,374

9.31%

Linebackers (9)

$34,515,477

$3,835,053

22.31%

Safeties (6)

$12,107,491

$2,017,915

8.17%

Cornerbacks (6)

$14,644,860

$2,440,810

9.47%

Special Teams (3)

$3,525,000

$1,175,000

2.28%

Total (57)

$149,446,699

$2,621,872

X

Source: Spotrac

New England Patriots

Position (Number of Players)

Cap Dollars

Average Cap Dollars Spent Per Player

Percentage of Cap

Quarterbacks (3)

$15,245,534

$5,081,845

10.29%

Running Backs (4)

$4,084,272

$1,021,068

2.76%

Wide Receivers (6)

$15,924,697

$2,654,116

10.75%

Tight Ends (4)

$12,389,980

$3,097,495

8.36%

Offensive Line (10)

$24,735,930

$2,473,593

16.69%

Defensive Line (10)

$20,979,152

$2,097,915

14.16%

Linebackers (6)

$13,497,865

$2,249,644

9.11%

Safeties (6)

$12,692,934

$2,115,489

8.57%

Cornerbacks (6)

$4,772,115

$795,353

3.22%

Special Teams (3)

$6,387,500

$2,129,167

4.31%

Total (58)

$130,709,979

$2,253,620

X

Source: Spotrac

Pittsburgh Steelers

Position (Number of Players)

Cap Dollars

Average Cap Dollars Spent Per Player

Percentage of Cap

Quarterbacks (3)

$25,334,805

$8,444,935

16.78%

Running Backs (3)

$4,362,347

$1,454,116

2.89%

Wide Receivers (8)

$16,768,089

$2,096,011

11.11%

Tight Ends (4)

$4,064,728

$1,016,182

2.69%

Offensive Line (12)

$28,025,288

$2,335,440

18.56%

Defensive Line (8)

$14,870,508

$1,858,814

9.85%

Linebackers (11)

$30,032,971

$2,730,179

19.89%

Safeties (5)

$7,178,455

$1,435,691

4.75%

Cornerbacks (6)

$6,867,266

$1,144,544

4.55%

Special Teams (3)

$1,730,000

$576,667

1.15%

Total (63)

$139,234,457

$2,210,070

X

Source: Spotrac

Seattle Seahawks

Position (Number of Players)

Cap Dollars

Average Cap Dollars Spent Per Player

Percentage of Cap

Quarterbacks (2)

$18,997,000

$9,498,500

12.79%

Running Backs (6)

$2,500,502

$416,750

1.68%

Wide Receivers (4)

$12,695,339

$3,173,835

8.54%

Tight Ends (3)

$12,337,853

$4,112,618

8.30%

Offensive Line (10)

$9,047,413

$904,741

6.09%

Defensive Line (12)

$21,396,734

$1,783,061

14.40%

Linebackers (6)

$15,074,986

$2,512,498

10.15%

Safeties (7)

$18,825,000

$2,689,286

12.67%

Cornerbacks (6)

$20,127,294

$3,354,549

13.55%

Special Teams (3)

$5,575,000

$1,858,333

3.75%

Total (59)

$136,577,121

$2,314,866

X

Source: Spotrac

Average of All 6 Teams

Position (Number of Players)

Cap Dollars

Average Cap Dollars Spent Per Player

Percentage of Cap

Quarterbacks

$20,432,207

$8,172,833

12.87%

Running Backs

$5,352,674

$1,147,002

3.37%

Wide Receivers

$16,603,350

$2,692,435

10.46%

Tight Ends

$7,786,695

$2,123,644

4.91%

Offensive Line

$21,230,114

$2,021,916

13.38%

Defensive Line

$18,533,391

$2,059,265

11.68%

Linebackers

$21,431,982

$2,678,998

13.50%

Safeties

$11,409,526

$1,901,587

7.19%

Cornerbacks

$11,620,927

$1,884,475

7.32%

Special Teams

$4,424,186

$1,474,729

2.79%

Total

$138,825,052

$2,326,677

X

Source: Spotrac

Positions with the Largest Percentage of Cap Space Used:

- Linebackers -€” 13.50%

- Offensive Linemen -€” 13.38%

- Quarterbacks -€” 12.87%

- Defensive Linemen -€” 11.68%

- Wide Receivers -€” 10.46%

- Cornerbacks -€” 7.32%

- Safeties -€” 7.19%

- Tight Ends -€” 4.91%

- Running Backs -€” 3.37%

- Special Teams -€” 2.79%

What can we take away from those tables? There are a few interesting takeaways showing poor judgment and spending on Grigson's part:

  • The Colts and Seahawks spent essentially as much money per player on linebackers. When comparing both units, you'll see that the Seahawks have a far superior unit. Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright are very good linebackers, with Wagner turning into a perennial Pro Bowler. Some would argue that not one Colts linebacker would start on the Seahawks' defense.
  • The Colts and Packers spent essentially as much money and around the same percentage of their cap on offensive linemen. When comparing both units, you'll see that the Packers have a far superior unit (that line may become repetitive). According to Pro Football Focus, the Green Bay Packers have the 5th best offensive line in the NFL entering Week 11. The Colts, on the other hand, have the 22nd best offensive line entering Week 11. The Colts have allowed 159 total pressures in 9 games (nearly 18 per game) and on passing plays, Luck is pressured 39% of the time. The Packers have allowed 72 total pressures and on a per-dropback basis, they have the best pass protection in the NFL.
  • The Colts spent more money on running backs than the Cardinals and Steelers. It's important to note that both Le'veon Bell and David Johnson are still on their rookie contracts, so that will significantly decrease the amount spent on running backs. It is also worth noting that both the Cardinals and Steelers have deeper, more effective running back units. Andre Ellington of the Cardinals and Deangelo Williams are both qualtiy backups who would start on other teams. Last season, when both Bell and Williams were injured for the Steelers, Fitzgerald Toussaint came in and played well against two of the top run defenses in the NFL. Stepfan Taylor has even played well as a starter in the past for the Cardinals. Frank Gore has proven to be a great player for the Colts, but there's not much to be said about Robert Turbin, Josh Ferguson or any other backup the Colts have had over the past couple of seasons.
  • Compared to the average, the Colts spend more money (according to the cap percentage) on quarterbacks, running backs, tight ends, offensive linemen, cornerbacks and special team players. They spend a larger percentage of their cap on linebackers, but had a smaller average cap dollars per player figure.
While the Colts may spend as much money as the other teams on key positions, the quality of play isn't even comparable in some cases! That demonstrates poor spending on the part of Ryan Grigson.

How Did Grigson Poorly Build the Colts?

It was just pointed out that Grigson did a poor job of spending money in key positions. He spent a lot of money on the offensive line and on linebackers, yet both positions have been weak this season and have costed the Colts in some games. The Colts have always been heavily invested in their offense, but without a strong offensive line, the unit cannot be consistent over the course of a season and they will struggle against top opponents. Luck has been hit more than any other quarterback in the NFL and that's a major issue for a pass heavy offense.

The defense, on the other hand, has done its job in some important games, but it is a still a liability moving forward. The defense had good performances against Green Bay and Denver (both on the road), but have let the Colts down against the Chiefs, Texans and Lions. Even though they got the win against the Bears, the defense had a horrendous day making Brian Hoyer look like a superstar. Injuries have been an issue, but lack of talent is an even bigger one. Despite the career year from Erik Walden, the Colts are still near the bottom of the league in sacks. The Colts have 3 aging edge defenders on the last year of their contract and there are no young replacements around. The inside linebacker unit is just as bad. D'Qwell Jackson is having another off year and Josh McNary should not be a starting linebacker on any team. The secondary is having an up and down season, but they've managed to keep it together despite the outrageous amount of injuries.

The defense is weak because very little investments have been made on defense. The problems on defense don't have much to do with coaching, but rather with talent. Ryan Grigson has failed to make the proper investments on defense and when he does decide to start spending, he has made some very bad decisions. Giving Arthur Jones, Trent Cole, LaRon Landry, and Greg Toler big contracts have hurt the Colts. Grigson also drafted Bjoern Werner and D'Joun Smith in the draft, which before this season were his two highest drafted defensive players. Neither are on the team and only one ever saw the field.

Grigson hasn't been able to fix the offensive line issues and he's made terrible investments on defense.