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Ryan Grigson faces a make or break offseason in Indianapolis

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You get the feeling that if Colts General Manager Ryan Grigson was injected with truth serum, he just might admit to wanting to push the reset button on the 2013 offseason. Like so many of us did on the old school Nintendo, restarting game after game of Super Mario Brothers or stopping Tyson from knocking you the hell out on Mike Tyson’s Punch Out. Go back to the start of free agency and that spending spree, refill the “coffers” and get a do over on the targets of his affection.

There’s no point in piling on the pain and anguish of the 2013 free agent crop and draft class. Yes, it has only been one season, and you have to be careful of jumping to any conclusions whatsoever with a draft class until they’re three years into their NFL careers. All well and good. But the free agents? Cue Bart Simpson with the aye carumba!

Calling this offseason crucial for Ryan Grigson and Coach Chuck Pagano is like telling Richie Incognito to seek therapy; it’s a no brainer. The Colts should have learned an extremely painful lesson from last offseason: when you have golden opportunities, you damn sure better capitalize.

The 2013 offseason should have hammered home the dire need for the Colts to maximize the return on their 2014 investments. Quick – name one free agent signee from last season that maximized performance on the field when taking into account the investment. It definitely wasn’t Greg Toler; his history of injuries didn’t get lost on the way to Indianapolis as Toler missed seven games. Ricky Jean Francois was a serviceable defensive end. You don’t pay serviceable defensive ends top 25 money for their position.

Flaskbacks of LaRon Landry missed tackles haunt us still, perhaps none more damning than his whiff job on LeGarrette Blount that allowed the burly back out the gate for a long TD run and might very well be the moment that zapped Indy’s resolve in the divisional round of the postseason.

Some would offer up Gosder Cherilus. Cherilus played fairly well, and was paid to play exceptionally well. He was handed an enormous contract for a right tackle. He might well be the ‘best’ of the free agent bunch from 2013, but be honest with yourselves; did that contract actually maximize return on the investment? The interior offensive line was atrocious and Andrew Luck still had to scramble for his life far too often.

The Colts absolutely must approach free agency in an entirely new way in 2014. Eric Decker and the Colts are rumored to have mutual interest as the free agent period draws near. Decker is a mid to high end number two receiver that will quite likely be paid number one receiver money by some desperate team. Receiver is certainly a position of need for the Colts, but you simply cannot hand out a large contract for the likes of Eric Decker. If he is willing to take more modest money, then by all means see what you can do. Free agency is not for the meek or the modest.

If the Colts are going to hand out one or even two large contracts this offseason, and not to any of their own unrestricted free agents, they absolutely must be to proven players that will be overpaid based on previous accomplishments. No more grossly overpaying backups who you think could emerge if given starter roles. Free safety and center are two positions sorely in need of improvement. Either investment would serve to maximize performance not only of the offensive line or secondary, but of the offense or defense to boot.

The Colts will likely move to lock up Vontae Davis before the start of free agency, and rightfully so. Landry will not be playing elsewhere next season, so Antoine Bethea must be allowed to walk. Pat McAfee is a fan favorite and does great things in the community, but I just don’t know if the Colts will be willing to pay what it will cost to retain the Boomstick. It seems like last year would have been the time to lock him up long term.

It remains to be seen what will happen when the flood gates open in a few short weeks, but one thing is for certain: the Colts cannot afford to whiff and whiff badly yet again. Like Leslie Nielsen would say to the shaky pilot, we’re all counting on you.

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