#HorseBytes: Free Agent Frenzy


#ColtsNation was taken on an emotional roller coaster in the first week of free agency. With the release of Peyton Manning still fresh in their minds, fans of the Blue and White lost several more star players to free agency before Jim Irsay finally re-signed a sentimental favorite. In this week’s #HorseBytes, I’ll share with you the news of the week and the reaction from our classiest Colts players.

Isn’t it ironic? At the beginning of the 2011 season, Robert Mathis and Reggie Wayne were all but guaranteed to depart the Colts by season’s end to test the free agent waters. Wayne, 33, was viewed as an aging receiver past his prime, and Mathis was considered to be too much of a cap burden to retain. But both players had outstanding years, considering the circumstances they played under. Wayne was the hero of the Colts’ unlikely victory over the division-clinching Texans in Week 16, and Mathis was selected to the Pro Bowl. Now, they are some of the only Colts veterans remaining on the roster.

Mathis was slapped with the team’s franchise tag last week, and he received a new and handsome contract soon thereafter. He announced his return first on Twitter, to the delight of #ColtsNation.

However, many other Colts were not as lucky. Last Friday evening, some of the truest and bluest Colts players were let go. NFL Insider Adam Schefter broke the news.

I’ll be the first to admit: I wasn’t too upset about losing Painter. But some of the other releases were pretty devastating. Gone is the speedy — although injury prone — Addai. Gone is the remarkable defensive captain with the inspiring story — Brackett. Gone is the sure-fire Hall of Famer and actor extraordinaire — Clark. And gone is the steady-eddy safety Bullitt. It will be difficult to not see these men take the field in Colts uniforms next season. The team has gone full force with its rebuilding.

Soon-to-be sophomore lineman Ben Ijalana may have been just as shocked as I.

After all they have given #ColtsNation during their tenures, the players had a right to be upset. But the ever-classy Gary Brackett took the high road and bid a fond farewell to his loyal fan base.

If you haven’t yet, please read Brackett’s book, Winning: From Walk-on to Captain in Football and Life. #ColtsNation has truly been blessed with a special individual the past 9 seasons. You won’t be disappointed.

On Tuesday the free agency signing period officially began, and the Colts continued making changes to their roster — this time with acquisitions.

Winston will help protect the Colts’ next quarterback (presumably Andrew Luck) on the offensive line, while Redding and Zbikowski are defensive players who will help the Colts transition to a 3-4 scheme. All three players have ties to new members of the Colts’ staff. While GM Ryan Grigson is very familiar with Winston from his time in Philadelphia, head coach Chuck Pagano guided Redding and Zbikowski in Baltimore just last year. Not only are these great additions, but they are also pretty great bargains.

But, while the Colts added three, they then lost another. Pierre Garçon, considered the second-best receiver on the roster, accepted an offer and signed with the Washington Redskins.

Garçon’s departure was another surprise, but it may have been a blessing in disguise. With Garçon gone, the Colts needed to sign a veteran receiver, and Jim Irsay began to right himself by targeting a familiar face.

This, obviously, was the best news Colts fans had received in a while. At least this enables the Colts to stay, well, the Colts! And it doesn’t hurt that Wayne is also a former Hurricane — a part of my own University of Miami family.

It’s safe to say we’ll be cheering on a vastly different Colts team next year. With free agency just beginning and the draft less than a month away, the Colts are still far from complete. But at least some familiarity will remain. Stay here with #ColtsNation as I bring you the news as it happens…since it usually comes out first on Twitter.

Don’t forget — For more Colts commentary, you can follow me @Catierae08.