With the Colts' emergence from a 2-14 disgrace to an 11-5 playoff team, this is a make-or-break opportunity which 2012 NFL Executive of the Year Ryan Grigson needs to capitalize on.
Letting go of Dwight Freeney and Austin Collie could very well be an indication the club is dead-set on using the cap space to pursue management's vision for the team.
As Grigson himself stated on a breaking news story on the team's official website:
We felt like our vision moving forward that they weren't part of it at this point. We felt good about our position groups, about this draft, about free agency. It came down to what was best for the organization, what we felt was best for the player. I felt it was best for both, I really did.
A report by Phillip B. Wilson of the Indianapolis Star captures Grigson's enthusiasm for the cap space the Colts enjoy:
It's nice to be able to go shopping a little bit. It's nice to know that if there is somebody I'm really pining for, I can at least have a crack at him.
Sports columnist Bob Kravitz of the same newspaper reports that the salary cap amount of $44 million is the fourth-highest in the NFL. Because of the team's gaudy standing in this area, Kravitz expects Indy to shoot for at least one big-name free agent because the team has no second or fifth round pick in the upcoming 2013 NFL Draft.
Most NFL observers feel the Colts need to plug some holes at the cornerback, outside linebacker and offensive line positions.
The cornerback position need is accentuated because of Indy's sub-par standing in terms of team passing defense—it ranked only 21st overall in 2012, allowing a total of 3,788 passing yards. However, as Kravitz indicated in his article, this cornerback hunt may fall by the wayside should the club decide to re-sign Jerraud Powers.
Otherwise, some prominent free agent cornerbacks that may be worth sizing up include Charles Woodson and a healthy Brent Grimes.
As for the outside linebacker position, Freeney first had a taste of what it's like to play this position a year ago in Indy's 3-4 scheme. With him gone, and with the Colts' not so impressive 23rd and 32nd overall ranking in sacks (32) and fumbles forced (six), the team should be able to select an able replacement in the middle rounds of the draft.
Lastly, the offensive line needs some shoring up. As Kravitz mentioned in his article, injuries, lack of continuity and too many shots taken by Andrew Luck to the sternum were the problems. He also says the upcoming draft is one of the best and deepest in terms of offensive linemen.
Should the Colts take the free agency route, some names which are worth looking at are Jake Long, Sebastian Vollmer and Brandon Moore.
Whatever the Indianapolis Colts decide to do with their $44 million cap space, expect Executive of the Year Grigson to not only live up to his billing as the league's best GM, but also to make the team continue its ascend back to prominence and respectability.