The Herald Bulletin

March 11, 2014

Colts' focus mainly internal on Day 1

By George Bremer
The Herald Bulletin

---- — ANDERSON — Ryan Grigson crossed his top offseason priority off the list Tuesday as the Indianapolis Colts spent the first day of NFL free agency largely retaining their own talent.

Cornerback Vontae Davis received the biggest deal — reportedly for four years and $39 million — after prolonged negotiations stretched into the start of the open market.

"Free agency is crazy," Davis said, summing up the day's events as well as anyone. "My agent kept me up to date. I had no doubt in my mind that the Colts (would) sign me back."

The team also reached a new two-year deal with kicker Adam Vinatieri and agreed to one-year contracts with special teams ace Sergio Brown and veteran running back Ahmad Bradshaw.

Vinatieri's deal was the first announced, and it would take him through an even 10 years with Indianapolis. He also played for 10 seasons at the start of his career in New England and had little desire to change teams again.

"It's always interesting and/or fun to have other teams calling and seeing who wants you, where they want you and all the different situations," Vinatieri said. "But at the end of the day, they were all very, very distant competitors in this. Like I said to my wife, 'As long as the Colts want me around and we can get it done, I want to stay.'"

The lone addition was former Baltimore Ravens defender Arthur Jones — a versatile lineman who can play both inside and out — who signed a five-year deal reportedly worth $33 million.

Jones started 20 games in four seasons with the Ravens, recording 118 tackles and 8.5 sacks. He made 13 starts in 2013 with 53 tackles and four sacks. In Indianapolis he'll be reunited with head coach Chuck Pagano — who served as his defensive coordinator in 2011 — and defensive end Cory Redding — who played for Baltimore in 2010 and 2011.

"He is an outstanding producer down after down versus the run and pass," Grigson said in a team release. "He's a guy who plays at a championship level week after week and lays it on the line every time he steps out on the field. He is a great fit for our team."

But Grigson didn't get everything he wanted Tuesday.

After starting every game for the Colts for the past six years, safety Antoine Bethea signed a four-year, $26 million contract to join the San Francisco 49ers. That leaves the team searching for a starter opposite strong safety LaRon Landry.

Indianapolis also needs to add a starting center and is rumored to be looking for an upgrade at wide receiver.

With the re-signing of Davis, at least Grigson doesn't need to add cornerback to the agenda.

The 25-year-old technically was a free agent for less than an hour after the 4 p.m. start of the league's fiscal year. But other teams had been able to negotiate with his agent since Saturday. The strongest interest reportedly came from the New York Jets, and there were moments Monday night and Tuesday afternoon when it appeared Davis would leave for greener pastures.

Instead, the Colts met the market value in a suddenly skyrocketing economy at the position. The Miami Dolphins signed 30-year-old Brent Grimes to a four-year, $32 million deal last week, and the Green Bay Packers inked 26-year-old Sam Shields for four years and $39 million on Saturday.

New England's Aqib Talib and Tennessee's Alteraunn Verner are among the corners still on the market looking to cash in. Darrelle Revis could soon join them as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are expected to release the veteran if they can not find a trade partner.

All of which explains why Davis was such an important commodity in Indianapolis.

"He is a rare talent at 25 years of age who is still ascending as a player," Grigson said. "We are excited to see him reach new heights in his career and help us attain our ultimate goal."

Davis tried to ignore the business side of the transaction as much as possible, sticking to his normal daily routine and awaiting word from his agent. In the end, he wound up in his preferred destination.

"My teammates are like brothers," Davis said. "It's a brotherhood. When you go to the Colts, it's something that you hold with you for the rest of your life."