The Indianapolis Colts have cleaned house, and now it's time to restock. Last week the Colts made a minimally invasive roster move by trading for defensive back Cassius Vaughn, and reports have surfaced that the team has made several offers for disgruntled Cowboys corner back Mike Jenkins. The move for Vaughn only cost the Colts a player who may not have made the final roster anyway, but any trade for Jenkins, a former first round pick, would undoubtedly have a higher price: future draft picks.
That begs the question: will the Colts be an organization that builds through the draft, or a major player in free-agency and trade markets under the management of Ryan Grigson? Under former GM Bill Polian, the team was notorious for being quiet (or often completely silent) in free-agency, and the team rarely made significant trades. The Polian era Colts coveted draft picks and preferred to bring in players through the draft that fit the team's specific system. The advantages of building through the draft are numerous, and it's easy to compare teams like the Washington Redskins, notorious free-agent hunters, to teams like the New England Patriots who seemingly make trades to hoard extra draft picks every year.
After the massive roster turnover the Colts have experienced this off-season, it's obvious that they have had to make several additions just to be able to field a team in 2012. The free-agent signings of former Ravens make sense for a team installing the Ravens hybrid 3-4 defensive scheme. The offensive line clearly needed an overhaul, and the Colts have addressed that through second-tier free-agent signings and a relatively inexpensive trade for OT Winston Justice (actually, how much less expensive can you get than swapping 6th round picks?). The defensive backfield still needs to be addressed, but even showing interest in Mike Jenkins this early in the off-season hints at a potentially landmark change in strategy for the organization.
If Mike Jenkins continues his holdout and forces the Cowboys into dealing him, then the price might be right. However, reports that the Colts "Covet Mike Jenkins" and have made "multiple offers" gives Dallas all the leverage in a potential deal. If the price is an early-round pick, Ryan Grigson should just be patient and follow the pattern of success that so many other teams have utilized to build their programs.
What should the Colts give up for Mike Jenkins?
In all likelihood, the Colts will be picking early in each round next year and their picks will be much more valuable than they were all those years in which Peyton Manning guaranteed 10 or 12 wins. Also, the new rookie wage-scale makes players acquired through the draft far less expensive than high-profile free-agents. Colts fans will remember: Kelvin Hayden was a 2nd round pick. Jerraud Powers was a 3rd round pick. Antoine Bethea was a 6th round pick. A patient approach might allow a quality player to step up and stand out during training camp, just like Bethea did in 2006. If there is one standard in the NFL year in and year out, it's that absolutely anything can happen. Jeremy Lin might show up at the 56th Street complex and decide he wants to tap into his yet-undiscovered inner Deion Sanders. The Colts might find that the corner back position isn't a pressing need next year when the draft rolls around. If that's the case, then they'd be a lot better off having all their draft picks.
The Cowboys reportedly are playing hard-ball regarding Jenkins, and numerous team officials have stated that they do not plan to trade him. At the moment, negotiating a trade wouldn't be in the Colts' favor. If training camp ends and no solution for the razor-thin defensive backfield has presented itself from within, then many more players will be available as teams trim their rosters to 53 players. If no good options become available on the waiver wire at that time, then perhaps Ryan Grigson should revisit trade offers for Jenkins.
The team shouldn't break the bank for Jenkins this early in the off-season. The Colts' draft picks in the upcoming years are too valuable to waste. Ryan Grigson has made smart moves so far in his brief GM career, but being too aggressive could cost the Colts the ability to build a foundation through the draft as elite NFL teams have been doing for years.