Colts Biding Their Time History shows team will fill the voids, mostly from within
Another offseason of free agent losses has spurred a familiar response from the Indianapolis Colts: lament, but no immediate effort to fill the holes.
Business at the team's West 56th Street complex proceeds without linebacker Cato June, cornerback Nick Harper and running back Dominic Rhodes, all key players in the team's Super Bowl run who left in the past two weeks via free agency. Yet while other teams have addressed their apparent deficiencies by throwing big money at big-name players such as Adalius Thomas, Nate Clements, Joey Porter, Leonard Davis and Kris Dielman, the Colts have done very little since the signing period began March 1. Fans who might be frustrated shouldn't be surprised, at least those who know their Colts history. "That's probably going to be our history all the time,'' coach Tony Dungy said Monday. "You hope to keep all your guys, but you know that's not going to happen. You're always disappointed when you lose your guys, but you know that's the way the system works.'' Since Dungy's arrival in 2002, the Colts, who always are somewhat constrained under the salary cap because of their battery of high-priced "core'' players, have lost 15 prominent veterans to free agency, including the latest trio. They've replaced only one of the previous 12 during the early, expensive phase of free agency, countering the departure of kicker Mike Vanderjagt by signing Adam Vinatieri. Otherwise the blueprint usually has been to retool from within. Young players are expected to step up, fill in, excel. Team president Bill Polian always chuckles when media try to determine the free agent winners and losers less than a month into the offseason. The idea, he insists, isn't to be the "winner'' in March or April. Dungy agrees. "It's all about putting out the best team in September,'' the coach said. "At this time of year, everybody feels you get better by bringing in better or different players. We've always taken the approach that you're going to get better by your players improving. "We're very comfortable with our way.'' That puts the burden on players selected in the draft, acquired via the waiver wire or signed as rookie free agents. David Thornton, a fourth-round draft pick, replaces Mike Peterson. Ryan Lilja, picked up off waivers, steps in for Rick DeMulling, a seventh-round pick who had stepped in for Steve McKinney. And so on. While proven, this method isn't foolproof. When Thornton signed with the Tennessee Titans last year, the Colts made Gilbert Gardner, their 2004 third-round draft pick, the starting strong-side linebacker. Gardner largely was ineffective in 12 starts this past season before being replaced in mid-December by veteran middle linebacker Rob Morris. It's too soon to determine how the Colts will address the losses of June, Rhodes and Harper, but there's reason to believe players already on the roster will be given every chance to step up. The coaching staff is high on linebacker Freddy Keiaho, a third-round pick in '06, and running back DeDe Dorsey, acquired on waivers from Cincinnati last September. Harper, the team's best cornerback the past four seasons, was deemed expendable because of four players selected in recent drafts: Jason David, Marlin Jackson, Kelvin Hayden and Tim Jennings. Time will tell if the Colts once again can reload from within, but history is on their side. Despite losing the likes of Peterson, Washington, Edgerrin James, Jerome Pathon and Steve McKinney, they've reached the playoffs in seven of the past eight seasons, including a league-best six straight that was capped with a win over Chicago in Super Bowl XLI. Since 1999, they are a league-best 89-39 in the regular season. "That's a pretty long run by the standards of the National Football League, and we've got good players,'' Polian said. "The system is designed to weaken you, but thus far we've been able to stave it off. "The longer you go, the more difficult it becomes.''
Dr. Duran Duran wrote:Wow, everything they said sounds identical to what I said in the thread about Cato June signing with Tampa. Maybe I have a future in writing for the Colts web site.
What they said about Harper being expendable is so true. Marlin Jackson, Kelvin Hayden and Antoine Bethea are ready to shine. Harper, as nice a player as he was, just didn't warrant the money.
Yea, most people don't appreciate enough how good a team can become by building mostly through the draft. It's what the Steelers and Colts both seem to do and while you miss out on the big free agents, you also don't consistently overpay for players. I always laugh when fans get so frustrated that "their team isn't doing anything" or whatever, teams that are smarter will wait and spend their money more wisely.
A lot of the cover 2 defense is the system much moreso than the actual great players that are a part of it. Losing June hurts, but he was inconsistent this past year if I remember correctly and I'm sure they'll be able to find another LB that Dungy can get to become a starter for you guys. While you need some great players, the most important component is that good safety which you have locked up in Bob Sanders, I think the defense will be fine next year.