Ryan Grigson made one thing emphatically clear during a midday conference call today with local media:
Dwight Freeney isn’t going anywhere.
“Everyone knows Dwight’s a great player. He’s going to be here this year,” said Grigson, the Colts first-year general manager. “He hopes and fully expects to be a major contributor and a guy who strikes fear in our opponents and offensive lines every week.
“He’s a Colt, period.”
Grigson dismissed reports that the Colts had sought trade offers for Freeney and said the club hasn’t looked at the possibility of revisiting his contract for purposes of restructuring.
Freeney’s base salary this season, the final year of his contract, is $14 million and he will count a prohibitive $19 million against the salary cap.
If the Colts have decided which quarterback to pick, Stanford’s Andrew Luck or Baylor’s Robert Griffin III, with the first pick in the April 26 draft, Grigson wouldn’t admit it. He said the evaluation process is ongoing as it would be with any other player or position, but admitted it’s “a little more under the microscope.”
If the Colts were to reach an early decision, Grigson said there would be no negotiations or signing before the draft.
“We’re going to use the process every minute ’til we’re on the clock,” he said.
The Colts are hamstrung by salary cap issues that include nearly $38 million in “dead money,” bonuses paid players no longer with the team but not yet counted against the salary cap.
Still, they have been very active and aggressive in acquiring players and rebuilding their depleted roster. They have signed six free agents, traded for two other players and kept Pro Bowl defensive end Robert Mathis with a new contract.
“Just working,” Grigson shrugged, “doing our job. Come into the office every day and try to improve the team any way we can.”
The top priority has been reconstructing and reinforcing the offensive line. The Colts will have a very valuable quarterback to protect, whomever they choose. They have traded for tackle Winston Justice and signed a pair of free agents, center Samson Satele and center/guard Mike McGlynn.
“We’re trying,” said Grigson, himself a standout tackle at Purdue. “It all starts up front. I know that going way back. . . . If you have holes up there, things aren’t going to go very well for your or for your quarterback.”