We’ll start taking a look at the Indianapolis Colts’ offseason by taking a look at free agency.
Anyone following the Colts for very long knows that when it comes to the Colts and free agency, the place to start is their own free agents.
To look anywhere else is often a waste of time.
The Colts, one of the NFL’s most consistent, successful franchises over the last decade, have been that because they almost exclusively take a prudent, low-profile approach to free agency.
That’s not to say the Colts don’t spend in free agency.
They do — often in a big way — but Colts Owner and Chief Executive Officer Jim Irsay’s money almost exclusively has gone to re-signing the team’s own players, and in recent seasons, that has meant re-signing high-profile free agents such as C Jeff Saturday, CB Kelvin Hayden, TE Dallas Clark, WR Reggie Wayne, etc.
The Colts are predominately a team of home-grown players, and with the exception of K Adam Vinatieri, all of their “core” players either have been drafted by the team or, in the case of a player such as Saturday, joined the team without making the roster of another team.
What the Colts almost never do is sign another team’s “name” player.
Don’t look for that to change this season.
It’s not just that the possible changes to the league’s Collective Bargaining Agreement could greatly reduce the Colts’ ability to sign other team’s players, it’s that the philosphy of the organization – beginning with President Bill Polian – is that free-agent is an overly-expensive, inefficient risky way to build an organization.
So, in the coming weeks, look for the Colts to first focus on re-signing unrestricted free agent MLB Gary Brackett, then — barring a shocking coming together of the NFL and the NFL Players Association — to focus on extending tender offers to several important restricted free agents.
That’s the Colts way: grow and re-sign their own, and leave the risky process of signing other team’s players — read: problems — to the teams that have spent the last decade chasing them, mostly unsuccesfully.
That said, let’s take a look at the Colts’ players who could become free agents on March 5:
* Gary Brackett, MLB, Unrestricted Free Agent. Polian said late last week that Brackett is the first off-season priority, with one of the reasons being his status is already known. No matter what happens with the CBA, Brackett will become a free agent on March 5 unless he and the team reach an agreement before then. Because Brackett is a team leader and a better player than some observers sometimes give him credit for, Polian said the Colts don’t want to see that happen and will do whatever is possible within reason to re-sign him. Look for this to get done unless Brackett is wanting big-, big-time money. That could be the case, but Brackett may be smart to consider slightly less than what he perceives to be market value to stay with the Colts. He is a perfect fit for the Colts’ system and the team knows precisely what he brings. Whatever contract he signs, he likely would have a good chance to play out the deal, something that doesn’t always happen when a player signs with a new team.
* Matt Stover, K, UFA. Through no fault of his own, the 42-year-old Stover is unlikely to return next season. He was signed as a mid-season replacement for K Adam Vinatieri, and while he certainly helped the Colts to the Super Bowl, there is no indication the team doesn’t consider Vinatieri the franchise kicker moving forward.
* Antoine Bethea, S, Restricted Free Agent. The status of Bethea is less certain than that of Brackett, because of his status as a restricted free agent. As is the case with several players on this list, Bethea is listed as a restricted free agent under the assumption the NFL and the NFL Players Association will not agree to a new CBA, and therefore enter an uncapped year on March 5. Under the rules for that year, players with less than six years accrued in the league whose contracts expire become restricted free agents. That means the teams for which those players played can tender an offer sheet to the player, forcing another team that wants to sign that player to match that offer sheet and provide the player’s former team compensation based on the tender offer. This significantly limits the chance a restricted free agent will sign elsewhere, and considering Bethea’s importance to the Colts’ defense, it would be surprising if the team doesn’t extend a tender offer virtually assuring he will remain in Indianapolis.
* Melvin Bullitt, S, RFA. A third-year veteran, Bullitt would be restricted under the old CBA as well. He has played such a key role in the Colts’ defense that it’s unfair to call him a reserve, even though he likely will be a backup on the preseason depth chart. With S Bob Sanders missing much of the last two seasons with injuries, Bullitt has started on close to a full-time basis and while he’s not a Player of the Year-level player such as Sanders he was a big reason the Colts’ defense was solid much of last season.
(1 of 2) 1 | 2 NEXT