Catching Up with Colts President Bill Polian
INDIANAPOLIS – Now, the focus is back to normal.
Bill Polian, after spending the early part of the week addressing the head-coaching position, returned late in the week to the more typical tasks involved in preparing for a 12th season as the Colts' president, first traveling to Houston, Texas, to scout Saturday's East-West Shrine game.
Next week, he'll scout the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala.
The games are the first stages of the NFL offseason, and Polian said while he'll arrive at the East-West game a few days later than normal, his approach to the offseason won't change much.
"Other than that," he said, "it's business as usual."
That means a busy several weeks of not only preparing for and attending NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement Senior Management Committee and Competition Committee meetings, but also focusing on new rules involving the NFL salary cap that he said will make the offseason particularly challenging.
Polian said because 2009 is the last "uncapped" year of the CBA, there are several key rules changes to the cap compared to previous seasons. They are, he said, complex issues, but he said three major areas – acceleration of bonuses of released players, a 30-percent rule involving the signing of free agents and how/when to apply incentives in contracts to the cap – likely will make managing the cap particularly difficult.
Polian discussed the offseason and the challenges extensively, but said one of the major issues was resolved in ideal fashion with the ascension of Jim Caldwell into the head coaching position after seven seasons as a Colts assistant and a year as the associate head coach.
"The most imant thing was to get the head-coaching situation squared away," Polian said. "The answer (Caldwell) was here. We were prepared and ready to go, so we have and there it is. There's always some change related to that. We'll deal with it, but it will be limited. So, other than the emotional issue that occurs, the rest of it is sort of business as usual.
"We're now on to the first phase of the offseason, which is to determine what our resources are and how we're going to allocate them."
Polian also addressed several other offseason issues:
Question: What's your agenda in the coming days?
A: We're in the process right now of dealing with the new salary cap rules and we're putting all of the scenarios together under the new salary-cap rules. By the time we get back from the Senior Bowl, we'll be able to have a feel for what that does to us and if there are any contracts that can be adjusted to comply with those new rules. I sort of doubt it, but we're doing the analysis. Once we get the analysis done, we can plug individual players and numbers into this brand new world of 'final capped year' rules. Then, we'll see where we are. That takes us into the middle of February, which in reality is when it comes to a head anyway. It doesn't affect the timing in any way, but we have to adjust to a new set of rules we haven't worked with in 18 years.
Q: And it's hard to overestimate how much of an affect the changes will have this offseason . . .
A: It's a drastically different environment. You have three major issues, and there are more, by the way, but they are far too complex to get into. The reason you have that is because this year is designed in a Draconian fashion. It's designed for the clubs to say, 'I've got to go to the bargaining table, or we'll be so squeezed it will make our lives miserable,' and in the next year, in the uncapped year, free agency goes from four years to six, so it's designed for the union to have to say, 'Wow, we want our guys to have free agency. We don't want to have a whole class that expected they'd be free agents to have to wait two more years.' It's designed to bring the parties together. The unfortunate part is there's no one for us to negotiate with on the other side, because we anticipated (the late National Football League Players Association Executive Director) Gene Upshaw would be there. Tragically and unfortunately, he's not. Until sometime as there is a union leader who is elected, and that won't come until late March at the earliest . . . until that person gets up to speed, you won't have a situation where you can negotiate with someone. On the 27th of February, those rules will be in effect.
Q: The Colts typically have been quiet in terms of signing free agent players. Will that be the case again this year.
Answer: Yes. I would think so. I would be surprised if we were active players in it, because for the first time in 11 years, we'll be squeezed by the salary cap because of the new rules. As you know, we're not big believers in free agency anyway.
Q: And as you have mentioned in recent weeks, being squeezed by the cap is indeed unusual for the Colts . . .
A: It never has been an issue. The cap never has been an issue. We've been constrained by the cash budget. (Colts Owner and Chief Executive Officer) Jim (Irsay) has been very generous in that area. But this is what these rules anticipate. That's why they're in.
Q: Does it strap all teams?
A: People who have room, inordinate room – like Kansas City, for example; $26-27 million – won't be quite as strapped, but in the signing of free agents, they're constrained by the 30 percent rule, so that's different than it was. It will use up more cap room that it used to. People like us, who are moderately close to the cap under normal circumstances – in round numbers, we were $9 million under the cap at the start of the season – that gets chewed up pretty quickly.
Q: The Colts usually target and re-sign their own guys. Will the new rules change that?
A: It plays a role. The 30 percent rule is the toughest one for your own guys.
Q: Do you have an order of guys you want to get done?
A: We haven't determined that. We have to see down the last penny what the assets are. Then, we allocate.
Q: The Colts have announced two coaching staff changes this week. Might there be more?
A: I expect there will be a few. It could be guys going elsewhere. It could be that Jim (Caldwell) might want to make a change or two. All of that will come in due course. I would say that in the next 10 days that would straighten itself out. That's normal anyway.
Q: The month of February is short anyway. Is your schedule more constricted this year?
A: It really is. The whole issue of the labor situation is interesting in that the week of the second of February, we begin to finish up our evaluations and begin to develop for each player an individual conditioning and development program. That takes a lot of time. We have to finalize decisions on how we're going to allocate resources. That comes basically in the second week of February. Then, from there on in, I'm involved in both Collective Bargaining Agreement Senior Management Committee meetings and Competition Committee meetings, then the (NFL Scouting) Combine (at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis). The month of February flies by very quickly and is rather busy. It goes fast and it won't be until the 25th of February, really, that we get any breathing room. It will not be easy.