By George Bremer
The Herald Bulletin
---- — ANDERSON — Though he stopped just short of declaring his shopping spree over, Indianapolis Colts general manager Ryan Grigson made it clear Friday he's happy with the team's offseason haul.
The franchise has added likely starters at inside linebacker (D'Qwell Jackson) and on the defensive line (Arthur Jones). Hakeem Nicks was signed to a low-risk one-year deal to add another significant threat at wide receiver, and cornerback Vonate Davis, kicker Adam Vinatieri, punter Pat McAfee and special-teams ace Sergio Brown are among the key players who were re-signed.
During a conference call with local media, Grigson admitted the majority of his focus has turned to May's NFL draft.
"I've checked the boxes," he said, referring to the team's free-agency plan. "I felt like we really helped our team in some very key areas, obviously getting Vontae back, getting another playmaker at wide receiver, getting that guy to call the huddle, that veteran leader in the middle of our defense in D'Qwell.
"Then you throw in Art Jones, a guy that's an every-down defensive lineman that has versatility at all the positions, that plays at a high level every snap. Even last year, I felt like we got everyone we wanted. Again, we truly got everyone we went after."
Some are certain to take issue, however, with those the Colts did not pursue.
An offensive line that battled injuries throughout the 2013 season and surrendered 32 sacks of quarterback Andrew Luck has hardly been addressed. The only signing came in the form of Dallas Cowboys castoff Phil Costa, an interior lineman who has played in just six games over the past two seasons with three starts.
He's expected to compete for the job at center, where two-year starter Samson Satele was released.
"(Costa's) a tough, young center that has started games," Grigson said. "We drafted Khaled Holmes (in 2013) to be that center of the future. He never got a chance in (training) camp, really, because of the ankle (injury). He's still a little bit of an unknown at the professional level. It's going to be a good competition."
Indianapolis was one of four teams rumored to be interested in Cleveland Browns center Alex Mack, who was selected for his second Pro Bowl this season. The Browns placed a transition tag on Mack, offering him a salary just north of $10 million for 2014 and giving the team the right to match any offers from another franchise.
That has made for a silent market, and Grigson did not sound like a man about to make noise. He mentioned former Colts center Jeff Saturday — who made 202 starts over a 14-year career that included six Pro Bowl trips — as an example of a successful player at the position who entered the league without being drafted.
Grigson also served in the front office of three Super Bowl teams — two in St. Louis and one in Philadelphia — that made it to the NFL's championship game with a starting center who was not drafted.
"That's a position where you can find a quality guy, and you don't always need to have a high-profile player at that spot," he said.
Safety appears to be another position of need after Antoine Bethea, who had started every game for Indianapolis in the past six years, signed a free-agent deal with the San Francisco 49ers. Delano Howell, a 24-year-old who made three starts in place of LaRon Landry last year, is one option to fill the void.
"We will, of course, look at the draft," Grigson said. "We are still looking at some other options. We want to solidify every position group possible the best we can. You lose a stud like Antoine who meant so much to this organization, obviously it's going to leave a mark. But, at the same time, you can't keep everyone. That's just the harsh reality of this business."
Grigson does not expect Jim Irsay's recent troubles to seriously affect the way that business is handled. Irsay was arrested Sunday night on suspicion of driving while impaired and checked himself into a health care facility Monday.
His daughter, Carlie Irsay-Gordon, has assumed majority control of the franchise until he returns. Grigson said he'll continue to make football decisions and reiterated the entire organization supports its embattled owner.
"We would all run through a brick wall for him," Grigson said. "We all just really wish him a full and complete recovery, and we are all really pulling for him. I'll just leave it at that."