Colts sticking to long-term plan but still trying to win now
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Colts general manager Ryan Grigson finds himself in a delicate situation.
Indianapolis fans, coach Chuck Pagano and Colts players all want to hoist the Lombardi Trophy this season. Owner Jim Irsay wants even more: a Super Bowl crown now and a contender well into the future. Doing both won't be easy in the NFL's unfriendly salary-cap world, and Grigson knows it.
''A lot of Hail Mary's, I guess,'' Grigson joked when asked how he handles the predicament. ''We have in our mind, every day, to still have a goal for sustained success. It's a tricky balance. We've never really rebuilt here, I don't think. We've built on the fly.''
The 43-year-old Grigson has done better than most of the league's more experienced head honchos. Of course, taking Andrew Luck with the No. 1 pick in 2012 certainly helped.
In less than 12 months, Grigson's penchant for wheeling-and-dealing turned a floundering 2-14 team that was pegged as the league's worst into a playoff team. Since then, the Colts have won back-to-back division titles and gone one step deeper in the playoffs each year. In the way of every AFC team, of course, is Super Bowl champion New England, which has beaten Luck four straight times, including in January's conference title game.
Grigson was tasked with finding the missing pieces this season and dove head first into free agency. He spent millions of dollars on four free agents in their 30s and re-signed 34-year-old safety Mike Adams after he made his first Pro Bowl appearance.
Why gamble on aging stars such as Frank Gore and Andre Johnson?
''A lot of times it's more of the big picture dynamic even with what a guy brings to the table intangibly, what he's going to bring to a room full of young guys,'' Grigson said. ''I like some of these guys strategically, putting them in positions where they're going to help lead a group. They're going to help show some of those young draft picks that we bring in how it's done.''
The next step comes next week when Grigson tries to find younger, cheaper help with nine picks in the NFL draft. Injuries could play a role in what the Colts decide to do.
Right tackle Gosder Cherilus, now 30, finished last season on injured reserve with several injuries and has a history of knee problems. Donald Thomas, the 29-year-old left guard, missed all but two games over the past two seasons with quad injuries. Running back Vick Ballard missed 31 of the last 32 games with injuries and has not yet participated during the first week of Indy's offseason workouts.
If all three are healthy, the Colts could certainly fill in some of the holes. But Grigson may not get some or all of those answers until almost June.
So as Grigson waits to find out more about his own players, he can't afford to sit idle on draft weekend, not after repeatedly making it clear he's all in on a Super Bowl run now.
''It's not an easy job but Chuck and I are always trying to improve this thing,'' Grigson said. ''In free agency, there were guys there that we thought could help us in the short-term and in the long-term we felt because they are those type of guys that are kind of age-defying specimens and we like those older guys that are like that.''
Online: AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL