Colts go for quality over flash in free agency
Much was made of the contracts handed out by Colts general manager Ryan Grigson in his first year of managing the team with a juicy amount of cap space. Some called the moves confusing. Some called them smart. Me? I call them necessary.
Despite a surprisingly successful playoff season, the holes in the Colts roster were, well, glaring. Their secondary was one of the league's worst, while the offensive line relied on mostly depth chart fillers. The Colts also were inconsistent at best in pressuring the quarterback.
Fast forward to today, and Grigson has made the moves necessary to improve his roster with starting talent.
Tackle Gosder Cherilus was signed to a hefty, five-year, $30 million deal. At first glance, this seemed like a large chunk of change for a guy that could have some lingering knee issues, but he's a proven tackle that hasn’t missed a game since 2010. Offensive guard Donald Thomas was snatched up for $3.5 million a year, and for a starting guard in the NFL, that's a solid deal.
Do you notice a trend yet?
Cornerback Greg Toler came after Cherilus with a contract worth $15 million over three years. That’s $5 million a year for a starting cornerback in the NFL. Not too dreadful. If the Colts didn't show Toler the money, someone else would have. Oh, and a starting cornerback was what? You guessed it—a necessity!
As for Pro Bowl safety LaRon Landry, who was my favorite signing of the Colts this offseason, he got his payday with $24 million over four years. Once again, Landry deserved to cash in and safety was a huge hole in the Colts defense. That hole is now filled with grit, physicality and talent. See how this works?
Analysts and pundits around the nation may have been confused by Grigson's willingness to "overpay" for a crop of somewhat unproven and unspectacular names (he definitely overpaid for a guy I didn't mention, outside linebacker Erik Walden), but when you're trying to improve your roster in the NFL, paying a little extra to fill a hole can be the difference between an AFC Championship and a first round playoff loss.
Don't get the wrong idea, though.
Teams like to build through the draft, but it’s not realistic to think a team can fill every hole in one year, or even two or three years.
Free agency allows a team to cut corners. Plenty of teams have spent millions and millions on splash names in free agency for years, but it doesn't always equate to winning. At the end of the day, it's about the coach's scheme and player's willingness to adapt and buy into that scheme. Oh, and their talent—definitely their talent.
The Colts free agency signings might not have been incredibly popular, but they’re talented and this is why Grigson gets paid the big bucks. He has to make what he thinks is the best decision in hopes that it will pay off when his team takes the field, otherwise he'll be cut right along with his players.
These moves were made in the name of, that's right, necessity.
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