Ryan Grigson's aggressive free-agency strategy rests on three controversial patterns, and it demands serious trust from Indianapolis Colts fans.
Paying players like outside linebacker Erik Walden more than their recent production merits has been the main pattern of Grigson's strategy.
Walden is the most contentious signing. The negative reaction to Walden stems from the deal he was awarded versus his production.
Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported that Walden's contract breaks down at $16 million over four years. That's a more than handsome pay day for a 27-year-old with only nine sacks and 26 starts in six pro seasons.
Walden has never managed more than three sacks in a season, yet he is being tasked to replace Dwight Freeney, a franchise star boasting 107.5 career sacks.
The problem is that Freeney was never really suited to the version of the 3-4 the Colts transitioned to last season. Having spent his career as a 4-3 defensive end, Freeney lacked the range and agility to rush effectively from a two-point stance.
The issue of scheme-suitably is the motivation behind some of the huge contracts handed out by Grigson.
He has spent big to find better personnel fits for the 3-4 defense. The reality is specific 3-4 players aren't easy to find, even with half the league using the front.
Those who thrive in the scheme don't stay on the market long, and they don't come cheap.
The Colts learned both of those lessons when Paul Kruger signed a five-year, $40 million deal with the Cleveland Browns. The market for quality 3-4 outside pass-rushers had already diminished after the Dallas Cowboys gave Anthony Spencer the franchise tag.
Grigson tabbed Walden as the best available player to be a factor rushing the passer and in coverage. However, while 3-4 edge-rushers aren't usually available cheap, there are exceptions Grigson might have considered.
One option he surprisingly passed on is Antwan Barnes. The ex-San Diego Charger notched 11 sacks for current Colts defensive coordinator Greg Manusky in 2011.
Maybe Manusky knows something that put the Colts off. In fairness, Barnes has never been a full-time player, usually performing a situational role.
Manusky's experience with the Chargers might also have poured cold water on the idea of signing veteran Shaun Phillips. Colts fans may never know.
Whenever a free agent is signed, a franchise implicitly asks for trust from its fans. However, Grigson and the Colts brass are asking for more than most.
How else can they explain the contract awarded to Ricky Jean-Francois? Adam Caplan of The Sideline View detailed the signing, explaining that Jean-Francois will earn $22 million over four years.
That certainly calls for a lot of trust considering Jean-Francois was never a starter during four seasons with the San Francisco 49ers. Yes the Colts need a credible nose tackle. Their 3-4 schemes won't work without one.
However, it was two of Grigson's projects, Brandon McKinney and Martin Tevaseau, who failed to anchor the defense last season. Still feel like trusting him?
Trust is central to every move Grigson has made. What is in his favor is his commitment to fixing the obvious areas of weakness on the roster.
He paid a pretty penny, but Grigson did find two natural 3-4 players for his front seven in Walden and Jean-Francois. Without a better defense, the Colts are unlikely to repeat last season's heroics.
Grigson also needed to fix an offensive line that gave up 41 sacks and couldn't consistently create holes for a ground game that ranked 22nd.
However, does that need justify the deal given to Gosder Cherilus? That's a deal that ProFootballTalk.com reported will pay the former Detroit Lion $35 million over five years, including a $10 million signing bonus.
Those are significant figures for any lineman. Grigson is paying them to a tackle who blocked for 2012's 23rd-ranked rushing attack.
Will Ryan Grigson's aggressive spending get the Colts back to the Playoffs in 2013?
After all, the boost to the running game might come thanks to guard Donald Thomas. Grigson must think so, because he again paid big to land a backup.
The Boston Globe states that the player with 21 career starts in five seasons will earn $14 million over four years. However, Grigson can again point to some solid reasoning behind the move.
Thomas was part of a New England Patriots O-line that cleared the way for the seventh-best rushing offense in 2012. Like Jean-Francois and Walden, Thomas represents the second major pattern in Grigson's free agency strategy.
The Colts general manager has consistently targeted projects over established talent.
That pattern was certainly emphasized by the signing of cornerback Greg Toler.
Sports Illustrated reported the Colts will pay the 28-year-old $15 million over three years to fix last season's 23rd-ranked pass defense. That's certainly not a lavish deal.
However, signing Toler reveals the third and perhaps most worrying pattern of Grigson's strategy. Several of the Colts' new additions have had trouble staying healthy.
Perhaps the most troubling injury history belongs to one of Grigson's bigger investments, LaRon Landry. The safety did make 15 starts for the New York Jets in 2012.
For Grigson's aggressive strategy to pay off, he must prove he can retain the magic of last season. He must prove that the ability to unearth a project like Jerrell Freeman from the CFL remains intact.
He must also prove that the core group of 20-somethings he has signed can put the finishing touches on an already youthful roster.
If Grigson rewards Colts fans' trust on one or both of these issues, he'll be able justify the money he's spent in this free-agency period.