The Herald Bulletin

March 3, 2014

George Bremer: Decker debate highlights Colts' challenge


The Herald Bulletin

---- — Few names cause as wide a division amongst Colts fans these days as Eric Decker.

Never mind that the Denver Broncos wide receiver isn't on Indianapolis' roster and might never be added. He's scheduled to become a free agent March 11, and he's believed to have interest in continuing his career at Lucas Oil Stadium.

That makes sense. The Colts have one of the game's best young quarterbacks in Andrew Luck, and they could be looking for a reliable pass catcher with 35-year-old Reggie Wayne recovering from an ACL injury.

But Indianapolis has plenty of holes. The defense surrendered 87 points in two postseason games, and the interior offensive linemen struggled mightily to protect Luck or open lanes in the running game.

The Colts have about $40.9 million in salary cap space. So there is enough money to address multiple needs. But the debate over Decker is indicative of a central shift in the mood of the fanbase.

A year ago, general manager Ryan Grigson could do no wrong. He'd taken over a salary cap-strapped franchise that finished 2-14 in 2011 and transformed it into an 11-5 playoff participant in one season.

But 2013 took some of the shine off the trophies on Grigson's mantle.

The turning point came in September when the second-year GM traded a first-round draft pick to the Cleveland Browns for running back Trent Richardson. The Colts continue to back the deal and promise fans will see a different player next fall, but patience from the faithful is in short supply.

Coupled with underwhelming draft and free agency additions, trust in the once infallible GM has eroded.

Decker is Exhibit A.

Grigson promised to be prudent in his offseason dealings, and he's still working on new deals for a batch of his own free agents — including cornerback Vontae Davis and safety Antoine Bethea. But a 26-year-old wide receiver with 3,070 career yards and 33 touchdowns who also happens to stand 6-foot-3 could be an exception.

Fans have fallen on both sides of the debate online. Some see Decker as insurance for Wayne this season and a future replacement. Others see a product of Peyton Manning's brilliance who won't live up to the big money it will take to sign him.

In the past, belief in Grigson to make the right call would have overridden many of the doubts. Now the whole situation is seen as another referendum on the GM's abilities.

It's indicative of the task Grigson faces this offseason as he attempts to put the final touches on a roster he believes can contend for a Super Bowl championship.

The honeymoon is over. The next few weeks will determine how easy it will be to rekindle the flame.