Reggie Wayne succinctly summarized the seismic shift in attitude brought about by his re-signing and the events of the last two days with that one sentence. Wayne's signing, along with new GM Ryan Grigson's initial foray into the free agent market has taken a franchise seemingly destined to the fate of an expansion team and provided perhaps more than just a glimmer of hope for 2012 and beyond.
Prior to Wayne's signing, the Colts appeared to be the proverbial "dumpster fire." Peyton Manning was gone and the team had cut most of the remaining brand names associated with the franchise in Dallas Clark, Joseph Addai and Gary Brackett. We were hearing of Dwight Freeney's impending exit as well. When Pierre Garcon, who had recently rejected a five year offer from the Colts, signed with the Redskins just moments after free agency began, it appeared the COLTS anagram from their early days in Indy (Count On Losing Sunday) was destined to return.
Then Reggie Wayne turned the tide.
The veteran receiver was assumed to be out the door even before the season began. An aging future Hall of Fame free agent, there was no doubt Wayne would go somewhere else to seek one last ring run rather than hang around Indy amidst a total reconstruction. Most thought he would go with Peyton Manning as a package deal. Even Wayne himself figured he was gone, telling reporters via conference call that he had almost sold his home in Indianapolis.
Without Wayne, the Colts were facing certain failure in 2012. Colts 101 lamented that fact last month when we wondered about the wisdom of bringing Andrew Luck (presumably) into a situation where he had no weapons around him. Luck was facing a scenario that would have more likely resulted in him becoming the next Tim Couch or David Carr than the next Peyton Manning.
Wayne's return gives Luck that veteran target that every young quarterback needs. Wayne's numbers were down last season, but there's no question he's got more in the tank and can provide Luck that 1000 yard target that he needs. The Colts can also now use another draft choice to select a rookie counterpart to go opposite Wayne (we've projected LSU's Rueben Randle) giving Luck potentially a more explosive receiving corps than was here last season.
Wayne was just the beginning though. Yesterday, Grigson forged a trade for former Eagles' tackle Winston Justice. Justice is still trying to regain his old form before he was sidelined with knee problems in 2010, but he gives the Colts an option other than Jeff Linkenbach and Ben Ijilana opposite second year player Anthony Castonzo. That one simple trade involving swapping sixth round picks with Philadelphia just strengthened the line playing in front of Luck tremendously. If the Colts are able to close the deal with another Eagles free agent, guard Evan Mathis, we could be seeing the best Colts offensive line in years.
Grigson also inked former Ravens' defensive end Cory Redding, and did so at such a price that some think, including Robert Mathis, that Dwight Freeney could remain with the team.
Don't undervalue what Ryan Grigson has done the past two days. He may have gutted the roster in the weeks prior, but he's already begun a rebuilding process that would make Ty Pennington envious.
With just a few moves, he's strengthened a suspect offensive line, added quality depth to the defensive line and retained one of the best receivers to ever play to help with his rookie quarterback.
There are other moves to be made, most notably finding a candidate for that 1000 yard rusher to take some of the pressure off of the quarterback. Donald Brown or Delone Carter are most likely not going to do that. It could be that the Colts are going to address that by committee rather than with one player. The secondary will also require some major attention.
The Colts still have lots of time in free agency and the draft to address those things. Judging from the early returns, Jim Irsay certainly found the right man to make these moves in Ryan Grigson.
I'm not saying the Colts are going to be Super Bowl contenders…not yet. But with just the moves of the past two days, the Colts may not be the locks for the number one pick a second consecutive year we all originally thought. More importantly, Andrew Luck just might live past his rookie season.
And it all started with Reggie Wayne, "Colt for life."
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