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Indianapolis Colts general manager Ryan Grigson's first offseason was charmed. His second offseason was a bit star-crossed. Let's call his record 1-1.
This season should tip the balance, but which direction?
To be fair, the first season had some gimmes, such as taking Andrew Luck with the first draft pick. But Grigson also made some prescient calls, including drafting Dwayne Allen and T.Y. Hilton and re-signing Reggie Wayne. Last year brought drop-prone Darrius Heyward-Bey, injury-prone Ahmad Bradshaw, no real contributing draft picks and a move that wasn't technically offseason, but was huge for its failure: Trading a first-round pick for Trent Richardson.
It's too early to grade this offseason, since the draft is still to come and more deals are always possible. The Colts moves look decent in March.
“We feel real good about where we're at right now,” Grigson said in a teleconference Friday. “We're going to look toward the draft, but again you never say never (to another free agent). We're always trying to get better. If somebody pops up and they make sense from a roster standpoint, with the right specs (in) age and money, and big picture, then we'll look at it.”
If we're honest, some of us who analyze Grigson's moves conveniently alter our view in retrospect. I thought picking up Richardson was a coup, adding another superstar to the offense. Judging by reaction to Richardson's subpar performance, I must have been the only one who thought it sounded good at the time. It sure looks like a bad deal now.
Grigson seems off to a decent offseason start in 2014.
Grigson offered his well wishes Friday to owner Jim Irsay while saying Irsay's absence to go into rehab for substance-abuse issues shouldn't affect the day-to-day running of the Colts. Irsay leaves it up to Grigson and coach Chuck Pagano to run football issues, Grigson said.
Defensive lineman Arthur Jones, wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, linebacker D'Qwell Jackson and center Phil Costa are among the new faces already in the fold, along with re-signing cornerback Vontae Davis, Bradshaw, kicker Adam Vinatieri, punter Pat McAfee and special teams standout Sergio Brown.
Grigson said he wasn't interested in getting into an arms race with Denver and others who signed a ton of high-priced, well-known free agents. Irsay's admonition to Grigson when he was hired was to work on multiple championships, not just a single season.
“We're in our own little world with our own vision, or own set of problems and circumstances and ...needs we're trying to address,” Grigson said. “They have a completely different landscape on all those other teams. Some teams may feel like they have a shorter window (to win a title) and they may do things more aggressively in free agency.”
Jones adds depth to the defensive front and Nicks adds depth to the wide receivers corps.
Grigson reiterated he expects Reggie Wayne to return from knee surgery and be at full health. But it was smart to sign Nicks both as insurance and to push the returning younger receivers, such as Da'Rick Rogers and Griff Whalen.
“You overstock the shelves and the cream is going to rise to the top,” Grigson said. “Some of those younger guys have to make big strides.
"When your eyes are fixated on Super Bowl XLIX, and you have that mindset, it's about creating great competition at each spot. When you make that cut down to 53, you have the 53 guys you're most comfortable with to get you to your destination. If you're a true champion, you welcome that (competition). It's a good thing and it's healthy.”
It sounds like safety Delano Howell will get the first look at filling the big shoes of Antoine Bethea, who signed a free-agent deal with the San Francisco 49ers.
Howell played well at times last season, especially while LaRon Landry was out with injury.
“When you lose a player like Antoine Bethea, that's going to be an area of concern and need,” Grigson said. “We have some players sitting there at that position. Delano Howell was no slouch when he played last year. He came in and did a heck of a job.
“We want to solidify every position group the best we can,” Grigson continued. “To lose a stud like Antoine who meant so much to the organization is going to leave a mark. At the same time, you can't keep everyone. That's the harsh reality of the business.”
Another reality is that NFL teams are either getting better or getting worse. On paper, it looks like the Colts are at least inching forward. The authentic judgment day remains a few months down the road.