INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Colts general manager Ryan Grigson is much more relaxed at this year's NFL Combine.
And why not? There were no questions about whether Peyton Manning would return to the team, he's coming off a successful season and he's got money to spend. Instead of cutting guys to clear salary cap room, he has more than $40 million to use in free agency.
"It's black and white," he said. "In the last year, I was in a completely different situation, and it's nice to be able to go shopping a little bit. It's nice to be able to know that if there's somebody I'm really, really pining for, that I can at least have a crack at him."
While Grigson didn't outline a specific game plan for what he will go after in free agency, he is dropping hints. If there's a choice, he says he would rather play with a rookie cornerback than a rookie offensive lineman. The Colts could use help in both areas and have expressed concerns over keeping new star quarterback Andrew Luck upright after he took 41 sacks last season.
Those are much different than last year's concerns. The Colts were coming off a league-worst 2-14 record and faced a possible public relations nightmare as Manning's situation dragged on. The Colts eventually let Manning go, and he signed with the Denver Broncos. The stress those circumstances created was evident in watching Grigson a year ago.
"It's funny now as the year's passed how everyone tells me how miserable I was up here -- you know, the words, fidgety and uncomfortable and sweating bullets," he said. "Those things are all true. It's easier for me to be up here, just to talk about football and not have to be too guarded because last year I had a lot of things going on that I couldn't stand up here and talk freely about. That's just the plain truth."
Grigson was fine when it came time to get down to business. He added offensive linemen Samson Satele and Mike McGlynn, defensive end Cory Redding, receiver Donnie Avery and linebacker Jerrell Freeman, among others. Grigson said the former scout in him enjoyed seeing how much the franchise could get out of overlooked, less expensive players.
"We didn't have that much money, the guys we got I think have all contributed and bought in," he said.
The Colts, riding an emotional wave as coach Chuck Pagano fought leukemia, progressed quickly and were one of the surprise teams in the league last season. The Colts went 11-5 and lost in the playoffs to eventual world champion Baltimore.