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Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay: "Most $$ is spent on own free agents"

INDIANAPOLIS – If a reminder of the Indianapolis Colts' franchise-building philosophy is needed, Owner and Chief Executive Officer Jim Irsay on Wednesday provided just that.

The Colts aren't big into free agency -- not other team's free agents, anyway.

Irsay on Wednesday addressed the team's off-season approach on his twitter feed, indicating Indianapolis won't change the direction that has won seven of the last eight AFC South titles.

“Working 2 shape the 2011 roster,” Irsay tweeted. “If there would have been a (salary) cap last year we would have been millions over it,so future planning is critical.”

The Colts typically have taken a low-key free-agency approach, drafting and developing players, then re-signing players they consider critical to long-term contracts. As such, they rarely sign high-priced free agents from other teams.

Irsay cited the August 2005 signing of Philadelphia defensive tackle Corey Simon – one of the only times in the last decade the team has signed a high-priced, high-profile veteran – as an example of the free-agency risks the Colts typically avoid.

“In 2005 when we jumped hard into free agency by signing C Simon we were 13 million cash over cap and it nearly derailed our future teams,” he tweeted. “We sign selective free agents from other teams but most $$ is spent on keeping r own free agents.

“Look at the Steelers losing P Burress n S Holmes...if u win everyone forgets.”

Pittsburgh, which qualified for the Super Bowl from the AFC this season, has lost wide receivers Plaxico Burress and Santonio Holmes in recent seasons.

Irsay also tweeted that while the NFL owners and NFL Players Association have yet to agree on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, teams must plan as if a CBA for 2011 and beyond will include a salary cap.

“You have to assume in your roster planning,a cap will return with new CBA,so you don't want 2 get in a bind by not planning for the future,” he tweeted.

IFR Analysis: Irsay's assessment should come as a surprise to no one who follows the Colts. The Colts have been one of the NFL's most-consistent contenders for more than a decade for several reasons. One is the presence of quarterback Peyton Manning, but another has been the roster constistency brought about at least in part to the team's approach to free agency. They long have taken the financially responsible approach of drafting and developing players, and avoiding the risks of veteran free agency, their belief being too often you pay too much for an aging player who doesn't quite fit your franchise once he arrives. This approach frustrates fans in March, but it has helped the Colts consistently contend in an era in which most teams outside Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, Philadelphia and Foxbrough have had trouble sustaining year-in, year-out success.

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