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Colts expected to take ‘Polian-like’ approach to free agency after last year’s disappointing bonanza

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Former Colts GM Bill Polian (left) and current GM Ryan Grigson (right)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (March 10, 2016) –As the Indianapolis Colts stood back and watched the first wave of the NFL’s exorbitant veteran free-agent market reshape the landscape, I couldn’t help but remember a couple of messages Bill Polian routinely delivered to an impatient media and fan base.

They apply to the present.

So, it appears the Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Giants, among others, have greatly upgraded their rosters. That trio alone signed 10 players to contracts totaling – brace yourself – more than $481 million with – again, brace yourself — $226.8 million guaranteed. (ITALICS) Guaranteed. (END ITALICS)

Paraphrasing Polian: They don’t hand out the Lombardi Trophy for winning the offseason.

So, right out of the gates, the Colts signed zero free agents. Zero.

Paraphrasing Polian: Yes we did. We signed our own.

Before the market opened, the Colts re-signed tight end Dwayne Allen to a four-year, $29.4 million contract and retained placekicker Adam Vinatieri with a two-year, $6 million deal. They also took measures to keep linebacker Trent Cole and defensive tackle Art Jones, restructuring the existing contract of each by lowering his base salary by $2 million.

We’re not here to sell you on the fact the Colts’ roster is fine and well-armed to push for the playoffs, even a championship. We couldn’t do that with a straight face.

Before training camp, general manager Ryan Grigson and his personnel staff need to find two viable starting offensive linemen – we’d settle for one if he’s a center – along with a starting cornerback. And let’s not forget a middle linebacker if Jerrell Freeman doesn’t return, a pass rusher, a safety, a young running back to ease Frank Gore’s workload and an affordable veteran receiver to fill in behind T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief and Phillip Dorsett.

But fans must come to grips with what will be a Polian-like approach moving forward.

No longer will the Colts be heavily involved in the early and expensive phase of veteran free agency. If there is someone they truly covet, owner Jim Irsay will do everything possible to sign him.

But the days of Andrew Luck working under the ridiculously-cheap first four years of his rookie contract are over. He counts $16.1 million against the 2016 cap and that figure could increase if the Colts sign him to what will be a monster extension. It certainly will increase over the next several seasons.

If the Colts are to remain perennial playoff contenders in what appears to be a much stronger AFC South, they’ll have to be on point during the draft. They’ll have to develop, then re-sign their own. They’ll have to find a starter or two in the second- or third-wave of free agency.

The days of throwing crazy money at other teams’ discards are over.

You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51