Once again, the Indianapolis Wallflowers are losing the offseason. There's this huge free agent party raging around them -- Adam Schefter has gotten more airtime recently than John Boehner -- and the Wallflowers are kicking back and watching, as per usual.
That's fine by me. And really, it ought to be fine by most sober-minded Colts fans.
Every March (in a normal year), the league's other 31 teams go nuts, throwing money -- sometimes stupid money -- at free agents, generating all the big headlines while appeasing their fan base. The Washington Redskins routinely toss cash at undeserving free agents, get their fans all hot and bothered, then go 6-10 every season.
They re-sign most of their own guys. Maybe they add a spare part here and there when the bargains become available later in free agency, but for the most part, they are the Indy Wallflowers. While Bill Polian did the free agent thing early in his tenure as Colts president when the team needed to add bodies -- Chad Bratzke, Chad Cota, some other guys named Chad -- he has generally been a spectator during free agent season.
Big names? Adam Vinatieri, who worked out great. Corey Simon, who didn't. There have been some midlevel guys, notably Montae Reagor and Brandon Stokley, but by and large, the Colts don't play that game.
And it has worked. Or did I miss something?
They won 12 or more games a record seven consecutive years, and maybe most remarkably, won 10 games last year with half their starters in civilian clothes.
Yeah, it's boring, and it doesn't make for sexy headlines, but you can't argue with the philosophy. Chris Polian, who is in charge now, would be a clod to try to reinvent the wheel here. And it's not like he has much room to play around: The Colts are up against the salary cap, whether fans like the choices they've made or not. And with Peyton Manning's contract number still up in the air, there's not a lot of certainty. Whatever the quarterback gets -- $20 million, $25 million or the gross national product of Mongolia -- there won't be much wiggle room for a franchise that's already paying several other stars big dollars.
On paper, yes, a lot of the Colts' biggest opponents have gotten better. The Patriots made a low-risk, high-reward acquisition in defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth. The Texans added Johnathan Joseph to their putrid secondary.
I also think the Colts have gotten better.
They will have Dallas Clark. And Anthony Gonzalez. And Melvin Bullitt. And Austin Collie. And Jerraud Powers. And Kelvin Hayden. All those players missed significant time, and this group still won 10 games.
Would I feel better if Joseph Addai came back? Absolutely.
Would I like to see the return of Ryan Diem, likely at a diminished contract number? Absolutely.
Would I be thrilled if they turned to bargain free agency later and added a kick returner and got some depth at defensive tackle and in the secondary? Absolutely.
Are you getting tired of all these parenthetical questions? Absolutely.
But this is far from a finished product, and Chris Polian is far from massaging this roster. I don't expect any headline-makers these next few weeks, but I don't expect them to sit around and play solitaire the whole time, either.
"One of the things we do is try to look at our own guys who we value," coach Jim Caldwell said Friday.
"The culture here is to build the team through the draft. That's always been the case and will always be the case. There are teams who live in the free agent market; we're not one of those. And we've put together some pretty competitive teams."
I hear the argument and understand it: The window of opportunity is closing. The marquee players are getting up there in age, and there's ample concern about the health of Manning.
But it's too early to panic or drop-kick a tried-and-true philosophy. Every year, we head into camp concerned about this, concerned about that, and then somebody who played sparingly the year before, or some no-name rookie free agent out of Where's That State, emerges and becomes a major contributor.
Maybe if we're sitting here two, three years from now, with the end in sight of the Manning era, you clear the cap space to add a big-time free agent who fills an area of need. But not yet.
As team owner Jim Irsay tweeted recently. "We didn't make a NFL record 9 straight playoff births with bad cap management n dumb signings of other people's problems,we like 2 pay r own".
The Wallflowers will once again lose during free agency season. And you know they're going to lose in preseason, a time when they routinely go winless or win a single game and give rise to the usual level of panic.
Then they'll win 10 to 12 games and have a chance to reach and even win a Super Bowl.