News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Colts

February 24, 2012

Pagano ready to begin Colts' rebuilding process

INDIANAPOLIS — With the Peyton Manning situation still unresolved, a pair of recently hired Indianapolis Colts — coach Chuck Pagano and general manager Ryan Grigson — are moving on with plans to rebuild the franchise.

Fresh off a 2-14 record, Pagano and Grigson have opted to let the Manning drama play itself out and concern themselves with getting the Colts back into playoff contention.

Ultimately, whatever happens with the four-time NFL Most Valuable Player — Manning is expected to be released when a $28 million team bonus comes due March 8 — Indianapolis needs to start the rebuilding process.

“We’re evaluating everybody on the roster right now. We’ll continue to do that. The staff is in place, so they’re going through that process right now. Our main focus obviously is on the 250-plus players that are here right now,” Pagano voiced Thursday at the National Football Scouting Combine.

“Again, just being here a short period of time and looking at the roster, there is still a lot of evaluation going on. From a needs standpoint, we’re going to look at all positions. We’ll take a close look once the combine is over and then get into free agency.”

Decisions must be made about a handful of key players. Wide receivers Reggie Wayne, Pierre Garcon and Anthony Gonzalez, defensive end Robert Mathis, offensive tackle Ryan Diem, cornerback Jacob Lacey and tight end Jacob Tamme lead the list of 22 free agents.

Wayne, Garcon, Gonzalez, Mathis, Diem and Tamme are unrestricted free agents. Lacey is a restricted free agent. And then there’s the matter of four-time Pro Bowl center Jeff Saturday, who is contemplating retirement.

“You just let the process handle itself. We all know when free agency begins. We’ll just continue to do our due diligence, evaluate the roster and evaluate every player on the roster,” the first-year Colts coach said. “Again, we’ll go through the combine, look at all of these players, go through the draft and at the end of the day see how things shake out.”

Pagano would like to have both of the Colts’ starting defensive ends, Dwight Freeney and Mathis, back next season.  

“I know those guys have been game-wreckers for a long time,” Pagano said. “Offenses have to account for both of those guys. First and foremost, we’re going to make sure we put both of those guys in position to make plays.

“I don’t think it would be very smart on my part or anyone else’s part to not make sure that doesn’t happen. Both of those guys are great players and have been great players here for a long time. Those guys are Colts through and through. We fully expect to have them here as long as we can.”

The same goes for Saturday.

“Jeff is a great guy and he has done great things, obviously, for this organization and this community. Right now, Jeff is just trying to decide whether he wants to keep going and how much gas is left in the tank. We certainly think there is some there and we would love to have him be a part of our program moving forward,” he said.  

“But again, he is sitting down and just visiting with his family, his wife, and trying to make a decision on what he wants to do.”

Grigson wouldn’t rule out the Colts changing the long-standing stance of limited use of the veteran free-agent market.

“It really depends on the lay of the land,” he pointed out Thursday. “If there’s no talent out there in free agency that really gets you fired up, I don’t see the sense of going hog wild. But if there’s guys that you think can get you where you want to go, then you go after them wholeheartedly. But to me, to be active in free agency just to be active just doesn’t make sense.”

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