INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Colts started and finished Tuesday’s free agent binge by re-signing their own key players.
In between, they added defensive lineman Arthur Jones — and it may be just the start.
On a busy first day of free agency for the big-spending Colts, the emphasis was clear: They need to get better on defense.
“He is a rare talent at 25 years of age who is still ascending as a player,” general manager Ryan Grigson said in a statement announcing the deal with Davis. “We are excited to see him reach new heights in his career and help us attain our ultimate goal.”
For the Colts, the splashy grand entrance into free agency is becoming an annual affair. Last year, Indianapolis signed five high-priced unrestricted free agents on Day 1.
On Tuesday, they focused on keeping their own players, agreeing to a two-year deal with longtime kicker Adam Vinatieri in the morning and a four-year deal with Davis in the afternoon before re-signing running back Ahmad Bradshaw.
But Indy couldn’t even wait that long to get started. Last Thursday, the Colts signed former Browns linebacker D’Qwell Jackson to a four-year deal. The next day, they re-signed punter Pat McAfee to a new five-year deal. On Monday, the Colts announced they had re-signed two more of their own free agents, defensive end Fili Moala and linebacker Justin Hickman.
Then came word of Vinatieri’s deal, which virtually assures the best clutch kicker in league history will remain the oldest player in the league in 2014 and 2015 and could make him a Colt for life. The 41-year-old Vinatieri said other teams were interested though the Colts’ were his first choice.
“For me, as long as my body’s feeling healthy and I can continue to kick at a high level, I don’t see why I can’t continue to play on. I know Morten (Andersen) played until he was 47. I think Gary (Anderson) played until he was 46. I know I’m 41 but in that sense, there’s a handful of years left, not just two.”
Davis felt much the same way.
After Miami traded Davis to Indy just before the 2012 season opener, the former first-round pick emerged as the Colts’ top cover cornerback.
Most outsiders figured that with the price of cornerbacks rising considerably after Sam Shields signed a big deal with Green Bay and Brent Grimes signed a big deal with Miami, Davis was as good as gone if he didn’t re-sign before the free agent market opened Tuesday afternoon.
“My agent informed me that the Colts came in and we had an offer that we accepted,” Davis said. “In reality, I didn’t want to leave the Colts. I listened to other teams, but I wanted to get back (to Indy), so we made it work.”
Financial terms of the four deals were not immediately available.
Indy also signed Jones, a 6-foot-3, 315-pound defensive end, who played his first two seasons in Baltimore when Colts coach Chuck Pagano was an assistant with the Ravens. Last season, Jones started a career high 13 games, finished with a career best 53 tackles and had four sacks. He’s big enough to play inside or outside in the Colts’ 3-4 front, but the Colts wanted Jones for more than just versatility.
“He is an outstanding producer down after down versus the run and pass,” Grigson said. “He’s a guy who plays at a championship level week after week and lays it on the line every time he steps out on the field. He is a great fit for our team.”
Jones is expected to undergo a team physical Wednesday.
Bradshaw was off to a promising start last season after recovering from a foot injury, which led to his departure from the Giants. He rushed for 186 yards and two scores before injuring his neck in Week 3 against San Francisco in September. Bradshaw never returned from that injury and finished the season on injured reserve.
What’s next for a team that started the day roughly $36 million under the $133 million salary cap is anybody’s guess.
The Colts are still looking to solidify their offensive line, especially after releasing starting center Samson Satele late last week to save about $4 million. They could still use another pass rusher to help NFL sacks champion Robert Mathis; are likely still seeking a receiver to help Andrew Luck; and might now need a safety after losing two-time Pro Bowler Antoine Bethea to San Francisco.
But what Indianapolis does have is stability.
“If there wasn’t a business side in football, I would still choose to go back to the Colts,” Davis said. “When you go to the Colts, man, it’s something you hold with you for the rest of your life.”