In the past few seasons, the Indianapolis Colts have been big spenders in free agency. This year, however, they're taking a different approach.
Rather than going after talent from other teams in veteran free agency, the Colts are focusing on keeping their own. Rather than focusing on adding veteran band-aids, the Colts are focusing on developing younger fixes. Rather than being overzealous in their pursuit of the answers, the Colts are focusing on patience. It's a shift in philosophy for the team, driven by both financial and philosophical reasons.
"Well I'm hesitant because we don't really have the cash," general manager Ryan Grigson told 1070 the Fan's Dan Dakich on Friday regarding whether he'll be hesitant in free agency this year. "There are some key guys, we've got some players on our team that contrary to popular belief we think can play. So we have to really see if we can get those guys in-house signed; if we can't, it might open some windows of opportunity for some of those position groups we thought we were never going to have a chance on. Because we're trying to project what Andrew [Luck] and his deal is going to be and so forth, so that's tough."
Grigson added that, while he doesn't want to make any guarantees, he does expect Andrew Luck's long-term contract extension to get done before the start of the 2016 season, as both sides are committed to getting it done. Luck isn't the only player the Colts would like to get under contract this offseason, however, as other players such as Jerrell Freeman, Adam Vinatieri, Dwayne Allen, Coby Fleener, and Dwight Lowery are set to become free agents. The Colts will have some tough decisions to make on those players, but they're focusing on re-signing their own before going out and adding players from other teams. If those moves don't work out as the Colts would like, then they may go looking for other free agents - but either way, it's clear the Colts won't be the big spenders that they were in recent years.
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," Grigson said on Thursday at the NFL Combine. "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."
Though the 2016 Colts aren't anywhere near the cap hell of the 2012 Colts, Grigson's point is clear: the Colts aren't likely to go out spending a lot of money this year because, well, they can't afford it. Besides - free agent moves often don't work out.
"Our owner knows it," Grigson said, talking about Jim Irsay. "He knows that the house usually wins in free agency. He's told me that before we make those moves."
Irsay has enabled his general manager to make the big free agent splashes, but at the same time Irsay realizes that those moves often don't work out. That's a message that has gotten through to Grigson, who on Thursday preached patience. Besides, as Grigson told Dakich, if the Colts lose some of their own free agents they could get compensatory picks as a result.
Colts fans have grown accustomed to the Colts being big spenders in veteran free agency in the past few seasons, but that's likely to change this year. That doesn't mean the team won't make any moves, but they're focused on building the team and developing talent - younger talent. That doesn't mean that the Colts are blind to their needs - Grigson and head coach Chuck Pagano both stressed the needs along the offensive line and pass rush - but it does mean that the Colts want those fixes to last, not simply be band-aids. Hopefully the change in philosophy works out, but either way it's clear that this offseason will be different for the Colts.