With the season over, this is a do-or-die offseason for Indianapolis Colts general manager Ryan Grigson.
After a brilliant offseason before the 2012 campaign, drafting key players like T.Y. Hilton and Vick Ballard in later rounds, Grigson struggled in 2013. None of his draft picks exactly panned out, and his additions via free agency either struggled, were seriously overpaid or both.
The good news for Grigson is that he has another offseason to prove that 2013 was a fluke. According to OverTheCap.com, he'll be working with nearly $35 million in cap room.
The bad news? If the additions this offseason don't work out, fans may start calling for a new general manager.
With a ton of players leaving for free agency, both on the Colts and league-wide, here are a few cost-effective moves that Grigson should make over the next few months.
Note: All information regarding current and former contracts is provided by Spotrac.com.
Before this past season, fans would have had no problem letting running back Donald Brown walk after this season. In fact, with a healthy Vick Ballard and Ahmad Bradshaw at the beginning of the year, there was a chance that Brown didn't even make the final 53-man roster.
But Brown is now coming off of a career season, putting up 751 total yards and eight total touchdowns while averaging 5.3 yards per rushing attempt. Combine that with the the fact that Bradshaw is also a free agent, Ballard is coming off of an ACL tear and Trent Richardson seriously struggled after being traded to Indianapolis and you see that Brown might actually fill a need.
If the Colts decided to bring back Brown, it likely wouldn't be for a very big contract. His last deal was for five years and worth around $10.4 million. He had a big season, but I don't think many teams would be willing to pay out big money, while the Colts could probably re-sign him for about as much as his last deal, if not a bit more.
Unfortunately, Brown recently sent an ominous tweet that suggested his time in Indy might be done. While that may be the case, I still think it's a smart move for them to try and bring him back.
Colts fans will always love and respect safety Antoine Bethea. As former Bleacher Report AFC South Lead Writer Nate Dunlevy describes him, he's truly a "Classic Colt."
But the NFL doesn't care about sentimental value. At the end of the day, the league is a business, and bringing Bethea back on another big contract might not be the best idea.
At 29 years old, Bethea started to show signs of age this season. It really started to show in Week 9 against the Houston Texans, when he was burned multiple times in the game while Case Keenum of all people was throwing bombs down the field to Andre Johnson.
Pro Football Focus (subscription required) had Bethea as one of the worst defensive players for the Colts, posting an overall grade of just minus-2.9 and the second-lowest pass coverage grade for the defense at minus-4.9.
Bethea's last deal was for a whopping $26 million over just four years, hitting the cap by at least $5.7 million each season. In an offseason where the Colts need to be a bit more careful with their money, it might be time to finally cut ties with Bethea, as he's shown that his career is beginning to come to an end.
Depth on the offensive line is a serious concern for the Colts, but bringing Joe Reitz back might be the most cost-effective move that they could make.
Despite playing in just 149 total snaps during the regular season, Reitz had one of the best overall PFF grades (subscription required) on the offense at 5.1. The only other two offensive linemen ahead of him were Gosder Cherilus (12.2) and Anthony Castonzo (11.8).
Reitz had a one-year deal last season worth just $555,000, which is pocket change for an NFL team, especially one with as much cap space as the Colts. Mike McGlynn might not be coming back now that he's a free agent, and with how much Hugh Thornton struggled, the Colts are going to need an insurance policy on the inside of the offensive line.
This one makes too much sense for the Colts not to do it.
If Reggie Wayne is able to come back and be a healthy, productive receiver, then both him and T.Y. Hilton will be getting the majority of the reps at receiver. With that in mind, the Colts will still likely need two guys behind them to come in and play in certain situations and be able to step up in the event someone gets hurt.
Currently, the Colts have three players at the position with cheaper contracts in Griff Whalen, Da'Rick Rogers and LaVon Brazill, and it might be the latter that gets cut.
By the end of the regular season, Whalen and Rogers had shown some serious potential at wide receiver. Rogers showed some big-play potential against the Cincinnati Bengals, and Whalen looked like he could become a reliable possession receiver.
Brazill may have had a great game in the playoffs against the New England Patriots, but the upside on Rogers and Whalen is far more appealing. If the Colts wanted to save some cap space over the next two seasons, they could cut Brazill.
While cutting Brazill would result in a little less than $40,000 in dead money, it would also be saving the team over $1.2 million in cap space over the next two seasons. He's made some big plays over the past two years, but the upside of Rogers and Whalen may mean that Brazill is gone before the 2014 season begins.
The Matt Hasselbeck signing is one that still baffles me to this day. The Colts signed a 38-year-old backup quarterback that played 25 total snaps this season, yet the team signed him to a two-year deal worth $7.25 million.
With how many free agents the Colts are going to have to consider re-signing, they're going to need all of the cap space that they can get, and keeping an overpaid backup quarterback on the roster is one that quite simply doesn't make sense, at least not to me.
People will argue with me about cutting Hasselbeck because it would result in $1.5 million in dead money. Those people don't know what a "sunk cost" is.
The Colts already gave Hasselbeck his $3 million signing bonus, but per cap rules, the bonus impacts cap room by the total amount of the bonus divided by the number of years on a contract per year, which is why cutting him would result in $1.5 million in dead money.
But that money can't be taken back, and if the Colts didn't cut him, Hasselbeck would count for $3.75 million against the cap instead. So if the Colts cut him, they'll be getting a net gain of $2.25 million.
Chandler Harnish isn't the best backup quarterback, but he's not much worse than Hasselbeck. Besides, if Andrew Luck goes down, there will be bigger problems to worry about.