The first day of free agency is complete, and the Indianapolis Colts were big players, as expected.
The Colts re-signed four of their own players while also picking up one of the top free agents on the defensive line. With cap room yet to spare, the team is expected to still be a player for potential starters at center, safety and wide receiver in coming days.
The biggest news of the day was the Colts re-signing CB Vontae Davis to a four-year $39 million contract with $20 million in guarantees, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. Earlier in the afternoon, the rumored deal with former Baltimore Ravens defensive end Arthur Jones was confirmed, a signing worth $33 million over five years with $16 million guaranteed, according to Stephen Holder and Mike Chappell of The Indianapolis Star.
The Colts also re-signed placekicker Adam Vinatieri, running back Ahmad Bradshaw and safety Sergio Brown.
|2014 Indianapolis Colts Free Agent Signings|
|Player||2013 Team||Years||Total Contract||Guaranteed||Yearly Average|
|LB D'Qwell Jackson||Browns||4||$22 million||$11 million||$5.5 million|
|DT Fili Moala||Colts||1||$1.4 million||$300,000||$1.4 million|
|P Pat McAfee||Colts||5||$14.5 million||$5 million||$2.9 million|
|K Adam Vinatieri||Colts||2||$5 million||-||$2.5 million|
|DE Arthur Jones||Ravens||5||$33 million||$16 million||$6.6 million|
|CB Vontae Davis||Colts||4||$39 million||$20 million||$9.75 million|
|S Sergio Brown||Colts||-||-||-||-|
|RB Ahmad Bradshaw||Colts||1||-||-||-|
While the team isn't done, it's already clear that the Colts have learned from an active, but harmful offseason last year.
Last season, the Colts identified players who they deemed "under the radar" and targeted them right away in free agency. As a result, the contracts that the Colts signed early in free agency didn't accurately reflect the market value.
Gosder Cherilus, for example, got paid $35 million over five years while other tackles, like Cincinnati's Andre Smith got less, despite being more highly regarded than Cherilus by some analysts. Cherilus' contract wasn't even one of the bad ones from Ryan Grigson's 2013 spending spree.
The Colts targeted—and overpaid—other mediocre players like LaRon Landry, Eric Walden, Ricky Jean-Francois and Greg Toler. Overpaying for players is what happens in free agency, but they picked up players who had major questions and paid them as if those questions didn't exist. Then, in 2013, those issues rose up and haunted the Colts.
Injury-prone guys like Landry and Toler both missed major time, and were disappointing when on the field. Walden played at a backup level, just as he had with the Green Bay Packers. Jean-Francois played well, but couldn't offer anything in terms of a pass rush.
So far this season, the Colts have shown two things that inspire a bit more confidence in Grigson.
First, the team is being a bit more patient. The Colts did overpay for LB D'Qwell Jackson, who's living off of a reputation that is three years old, but the only signing the team made on the first day of free agency was Jones. Grigson and the Colts have seen the value in re-signing your own players, and have made the right decisions in deciding whom to let walk.
McAfee and Vinatieri are both high-quality specialists who are key veteran leaders, while Davis is the second-most important piece on the Colts defense. While S Antoine Bethea is a fan favorite, and a quality safety, the Colts made the right choice to let him depart. Bethea was stretched too thin in Indianapolis, and he and Landry simply didn't make a good pair.
Second, the team is spending on high-quality players, not throwing money at mediocre players and wasting the chance to get better upgrades. While the Jackson signing may fall under that category, Jones is a very good player in his prime, and Davis has the potential to be an elite cornerback. Davis and Jones aren't just projects with potential, though; both were arguably top-10 players at their respective positions last season.
Now, the rest of the Colts signings won't be of as high a profile, but the ones that have happened so far (including bringing back Fili Moala, Ahmad Bradshaw and Sergio Brown—all savvy, low-profile moves) have been for quality players.
While time will tell whether this offseason is successful, there are positive signs that Grigson and the Colts front office are learning, especially when it comes to reading the market and evaluating pro talent.
Grigson, remember, is only in his third offseason as a general manager. He's evolving, and that's a good thing for Colts fans.