The sermon is finished, the confetti angels complete, the lights have been turned off… again.
The end of Super Bowl 47 marks the finish of the 2012-2013 season and signals the beginning of the next "most vital off-season in Indianapolis Colts history." While last off-season was filled with tough emotional decisions, this off-season will be rife with difficult and tricky personnel decisions that will shape the future of the franchise for years to come, and go a long way towards determining just how successful this team can and will be on the championship level.
First comes the most challenging task for any team: honest self-examination. Grigson will need to avoid the trap of buying into the Colts 11-5 record, along with the hype and sentimentality that accompany it, and determine what the real strengths and weaknesses are on this roster. The toughest evaluations will likely come at Strong Safety and Center, where two of Grigson's 2012 free agency acquisitions – Tom Zbikowski and Samson Satele – were two of the weakest starters on the team.
With his self-evaluation complete, Grigson will turn his attention to the trickiest part of the off-season, and one of the biggest killers of long-term franchise success: free agency. While most Colts fans are stoked by the notion of the Colts having over $40-million in cap space and dreaming of their team finally making a big splash in free agency after years of Bill Polian putting them to sleep, Grigson must navigate the minefield of free agency carefully.
It's true that the Colts have a lot of cap space and that, because of changes in the CBA, they're forced to spend most of it, but bad contracts have a way of snowballing straight to "Cap Hell." So what should the Colts do? Target the players they feel the most confident in and go after them aggressively. If you have to overpay to get what you consider a sure-thing, do it. But if you fail to get your targets, do not panic and overpay just to fill a need. The Colts are not one or two players away from being a Super Bowl contender, they can afford to exercise some "aggressive patience." Grigson has a reputation for being aggressive earned during his time with the Eagles – and certainly supported by his first year with the Colts – so it will be interesting to watch him attack this market with a lot of cap freedom.
Once the free agency carcass has been picked clean, Grigson will turn his attention to the part of the off-season in which he thrived the most: the draft. While they won't have their full compliment of picks – they are down the 2nd-round pick they traded for Vontae Davis – they should still be able to find one or two impact players, and I wouldn't rule out the possibility of Grigson completing a few draft-day trades in an effort to pick up some extra picks.
So how should the Colts approach the draft? Simple. They should draft, without exception, The Best Available Player (BAP). You should never, never, ever, (never ever?) draft based on a positional need. First, the Colts have far too many holes (QB and Punter, assuming McAfee re-signs, are the only two positions where they should feel set) to be picky. Second, you just always want to get the best player. If it's at a position where you're flush with talent, fine, you have now created a tradable asset. Stockpile as much good, young talent as you can, in an efort to set this team up for a prolonged period of contending.
At Colts Authority, we've already started the evaluation process for the Colts roster – who should stay, who should go? We've started looking at the team's needs. In the coming days and weeks, we'll tell you who we think the Colts should target in free agency and the draft. So while the season may be over, the fun is just beginning. So invite TO over, getcha popcorn ready, and enjoy what is guaranteed to be not only an interesting off-season, but am important one.
And, hey, if Grigson can duplicate the success he had in his rookie campaign, maybe we'll be in a New York State of Mind at this time next year.