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Colts change tactics, quiet as free agency opens

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RYAN GRIGSON COLTS

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (March 9, 2016) – The sound emanating from the Indianapolis Colts’ Northwestside complex late Wednesday afternoon as the NFL’s free agent market opened?

Crickets, relatively speaking.

Normally one of the league’s heavy spenders when it comes time to investing in other teams’ discards – remember, there’s always a reason a player is available – general manager Ryan Grigson apparently is taking a more prudent approach.

The Colts might have targeted a player or two and get them under contract in the next few days, but it’s highly doubtful we’ll experience the type of early, expensive shopping sprees that delivered LaRon Landry, Gosder Cherilus, Art Jones, D’Qwell Jackson, Andre Johnson, Frank Gore and so many others to the roster.

Owner Jim Irsay told us last month the team’s first priority was to identify its most important free-agents-to-be and re-sign as many as possible. That was accomplished with tight end Dwayne Allen and placekicker Adam Vinatieri. Linebacker Jerrell Freeman and tight end Coby Fleener will place elsewhere in ’16.

After that, Irsay stressed, Grigson, coach Chuck Pagano and the personnel staff must assess the free-agent market, be selective and make certain “the production and their (contract) numbers make sense.’’

But he quickly added, “the draft is where we’re really going to be better. I think we have to, over these next two drafts, continue to identify guys, particularly defensively, that are going to be key guys as we go forward.’’

While suffering third-degree free-agent burns over the past three offseasons undoubtedly has convinced the Colts to be more cautious, they’re also bracing for roster-wide budget restraints that will come with Andrew Luck’s looming extension. It’s a boon to be able to build around a young franchise QB, but the byproduct is less flexibility.

So while so many other teams are making so many players rich beyond their wildest dreams, let’s recap what’s going on with the Colts as the start of the new league year began at 4 p.m.:

RE-SIGNED

  • TE Dwayne Allen (4 years, $29.4 million): With a contract averaging $7.35 million per year, he must stay on the field and the coaching staff must use him as something more than an extra offensive tackle to shore up pass protection.
  • PK Adam Vinatieri (2 years, $6 million): He deserved better treatment than he got from the team during negotiations. Nine kickers have deals averaging more than Vinatieri’s $3 million per season. None can match his last two seasons: 55-of-58. We don’t care he’s 43.

BECAME UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

  • LB Jerrell Freeman, TE Coby Fleener, S Colt Anderson, S Dwight Lowery, CB Greg Toler, RB Ahmad Bradshaw, G Lance Louis, DL Billy Winn, QB Charlie Whitehurst.
  • Comment: We won’t be surprised if the team re-signs Winn and Anderson at some point. Lowery quickly signed with San Diego.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

Tendered

  • TE Jack Doyle: given lowest tender at $1.671 million. The Cathedral H.S. product can sign an offer sheet with another team, and the Colts would not receive draft-pick compensation if they chose not to match.

Not tendered

  • RB Boom Herron. Becomes an unrestricted free agent.

RELEASED

  • WR Andre Johnson. One of last season’s high-priced, high-profile acquisitions never panned out. The Colts free up $5 million in cap space.

RETIRED

  • QB Matt Hasselbeck. Smile for the camera, No. 8. He’s headed to ESPN.