By George Bremer
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. —
It’s a strategy ripped straight out of the rival New England Patriots’ playbook, and the Indianapolis Colts are hoping it leads to similar trophy-collecting results.
Just as the Patriots did in the spring of 2001 before winning the first of three Super Bowl titles, the Colts spent the opening day of free agency Tuesday looking past the big-ticket items and shopping in the economy bin.
The team that opened the day with an estimated $37 million of available salary cap space divided some of those riches among a flurry of five under-the-radar transactions — agreeing in principle to deals with Detroit Lions offensive tackle Gosder Cherilus, Arizona Cardinals cornerback Greg Toler, Green Bay Packers outside linebacker Erik Walden, Patriots offensive guard Donald Thomas and Atlanta Falcons defensive end Lawrence Sidbury, who the team sees as an outside linebacker.
“(Head coach) Chuck (Pagano) and I have a vision, and we want players who love the game, play snap-to-whistle and do all of the little things to achieve greatness,” Grigson said in a team release. “Those traits are prevalent in all of the players we signed today. They love the game and play at a high level. They are team players, and their focus is to dominate the person across from them every snap. That showed in the film, and we agreed as a staff that these guys fit the mold of what we are trying to accomplish here.”
The Colts were linked to bigger name players such as Miami Dolphins offensive tackle Jake Long and Detroit Lions defensive end Cliff Avril early in the day, but no agreements were announced with either player. Long doesn’t appear to be in the team’s plans, and there are conflicting reports about whether the team retains interest in Avril — who would be converted to outside linebacker in Indianapolis.
The Colts also appear to have chosen New York Jets safety Laron Landry over Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed who played for four seasons under Pagano in the NFL and was Indianapolis wide receiver Reggie Wayne’s roommate at the University of Miami. Landry is scheduled to visit the team’s practice facility today.
Reports also have linked the Colts to San Francisco 49ers nose tackle Ricky Jean-Francois who is scheduled to visit the Philadelphia Eagles today.
Indianapolis reportedly was in the bidding for Baltimore Ravens outside linebacker Paul Kruger before he signed a five-year, $40 million deal with the Cleveland Browns. And the team was believed to have interest in offensive guards Andy Levitre and Louis Vasquez before they signed big-money contracts with the Tennessee Titans and Denver Broncos, respectively.
Among the players the Colts failed to reach new deals with before the 4 p.m. opening of free agency were cornerback Jerraud Powers, wide receiver Donnie Avery and offensive tackle Winston Justice. All three are expected to sign elsewhere.
Indianapolis did reach a deal late in the day with Darius Butler, bringing back the cornerback who had four interceptions after being signed in mid-season last year.
Though the team’s haul lacked the big-name splash some expected, the Colts did add a pair of new protectors for quarterback Andrew Luck and address needs in the pass-rush game and the defensive secondary.
“At the end of the day, we wanted players who would mesh well with our current roster and with one another,” Grigson said. “We feel these guys undoubtedly fit that style.”