The next two-and-a-half months will be critical for the long-term growth of the Indianapolis Colts.
General manager Ryan Grigson earned NFL Executive of the Year honors in his first season for making a nine-win improvement and building a playoff team after a 2-14 season. Grigson’s job was handicapped by the need to purge an aging roster in a year with a flat salary cap.
But the Colts will reap some of the benefits from all that cost-cutting this spring. According to numbers released by the league, Indianapolis will have about $43.1 million available this offseason. That money will come in handy as Grigson looks to fill holes at safety, cornerback, outside linebacker, defensive end and along the offensive line.
The good news is there should be plenty of options at those positions through free agency and the draft. But it’s paramount that Grigson make the right decisions.
As important as his first-year extreme makeover was to the franchise, this offseason could be even more pivotal.
The Colts now are trying to make the leap from good to very good or even great. And that can be an extremely difficult climb.
The safety position illustrates one of the key internal battles Grigson will be waging throughout the spring. Veteran Ed Reed of Baltimore is eligible for free agency and contemporary Troy Polamalu might be a salary-cap casualty in Pittsburgh.
Both players have Super Bowl rings and a slew of all-pro honors to their names. But they also have short shelf lives left in the NFL and a recent history of injury.
So should Grigson take into account their resumes and clear leadership abilities and make a competitive offer? Or should he look for a younger option like recently released George Wilson of Buffalo or free agent William Moore of Atlanta who might have more time to grow alongside the team?
And what of a position like wide receiver? The Colts have some promising young talent with T.Y. Hilton and LaVon Brazill, but they don’t know how much longer veteran Reggie Wayne will be able to play at a Pro Bowl level.
Should they make a run at a rising youngster such as Pittsburgh’s Mike Wallace? Or try for a veteran like Dwyane Bowe of Kansas City or Greg Jennings of Green Bay? Or should they stay out of the receiver market all together and concentrate on areas of more immediate need?
The answers to those questions could determine whether Wayne and outside linebacker Robert Mathis get to make one more Super Bowl appearance for Indianapolis or whether they’re long retired by the time Andrew Luck finally leads the Colts back to the big game.
All is quiet for now, as the Ravens continue to celebrate their Super Bowl crown. But the next six-to-eight weeks will go a long way toward determining how soon the Lombardi Trophy will be making another stop in the Circle City.
Contact George Bremer: 640-4831, firstname.lastname@example.org