Colts agree to contract terms with 4 free agents
The Indianapolis Colts wasted no time spending their extra money in free agency.
Less than two hours after the market officially opened Tuesday, the Colts had agreements in principle with five players: offensive linemen Gosder Cherilus and Donald Thomas, cornerback Greg Toler, and linebackers Lawrence Sidbury and Erik Walden.
The team did not release terms.
It was Indy's biggest first-day signing flurry in recent memory, and while the names may have been a surprise, the moves certainly were not.
Team owner Jim Irsay, coach Chuck Pagano and general manager Ryan Grigson all acknowledged after last season that the Colts needed more protection for quarterback Andrew Luck. Pagano still wanted more help in the defensive front seven to continue making the transition to his 3-4 defense and the Colts were looking for reinforcements in the secondary, too.
At $40 million under the salary cap, the Colts started fast.
''It only took an hour and 15 minutes, so yeah, it went pretty quickly,'' said Gregory Diulus, Cherilus' agent. ''We had several others (interested teams), but this is a place where he really told me in advance that he wanted to go, so we were glad they got it done.''
The Colts, Diulus said, were one of the first teams to contact him when teams were allowed to start speaking with agents late last week.
Still, the Colts stayed true to their mission.
Grigson had said all along he wouldn't just spend money just to bring in big names. And with one of the youngest teams in football, he wanted to bring in rising stars, too.
All four of the players headed to Indy are either 27 or 28 years old, have a proven track record in the league and have playoff experience.
''Chuck and I have a vision and we want players who love the game, play snap-to-whistle and do all of the little things to achieve greatness,'' Grigson said in a statement released by the team. ''Those traits are prevalent in all of the players we signed today. They love the game and play at a high level. They are team players and their focus is to dominate the person across from them every snap. That showed in the film and we agreed as a staff that these guys fit the mold of what we are trying to accomplish here.''
What are the Colts getting exactly?
Cherilus has been an anchor on the Lions offensive line since being taken in the middle of the first round in 2008. Over the last five seasons, he started 71 of 80 possible games, played in 75 and was on the field at right tackle for every snap but one last season. He left for one play after losing a shoe.
That allows Cherilus, a 6-foot-7, 325-pound tackle, to team with another Boston College alum -- left tackle Anthony Castonzo, the Colts' first-round pick in 2011 -- and center Samson Satele, who signed a three-year, $10.8 million deal in free agency last season to give quarterback Andrew Luck more protection.
Luck was sacked 41 times last season and hit dozens more times.
Adding the 6-4, 305-pound Thomas at guard could help firm up the interior line, too. Thomas, Miami's sixth-round pick in 2008, has started 21 career games including 21 last season with New England and will now work with right guard Mike McGlynn, who played well after Grigson signed him in free agency last year.
That's not all.
Toler is known as a hard-hitting cornerback with a knack for man-to-man coverage -- two essential ingredients in Pagano's 3-4 defense. When Toler came out of college in 2009, he was considered one of the top 10 cornerbacks in the draft. But the first player ever drafted out of St. Paul's wasn't taken by the Cardinals until the fourth round.
He emerged as a key contributor in 2010, starting every game for Arizona, then missed 2011 with a torn ACL. Toler returned last season, playing in 11 games but made only two starts and comes to Indy with 128 career tackles and five interceptions in 38 career games.
And just a few days ago, reports indicated he would re-sign with the Cardinals.
Now, he'll be teaming with former first-round pick Vontae Davis in a secondary the Colts will be vastly improved.
Plus, the Colts, who said goodbye to the franchise's career sacks leader, Dwight Freeney, last month, have brought in a better fit at linebacker.
Walden became a key player for the Packers injury-riddled defense each of the past two seasons and at 6-2, 250 has the ideal size for Pagano's defense. The former sixth-round draft pick had 106 tackles, six sacks, six passes defensed and two interceptions with Green Bay in 2011 and 2012.
Sidbury, 6-3, 261, appeared in 48 games with the Atlanta Falcons and had a career-high four sacks in 2011.
The signing flurry has Irsay excited -- and the Colts may not be finished yet.
''We are THRILLED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!'' Irsay wrote on Twitter earlier Tuesday.
Later Irsay added on Twitter: ''I know sum of u fans want BIG names n neon- Old, hurt or off field question marks. Grigson isn't GM of year, who won 11 games by being wrong!''.