INDIANAPOLIS – At 4:00 p.m. (ET) today, the green flag will drop on free agency and 32 NFL teams are eligible to take off in pursuit of relevancy or excellence in the 2013 sprint for Super Bowl XLVIII.
Which teams race for the turn remain to be seen. All hope to avoid the demolition derby that unwise free agent shopping will yield.
While some signings can lead to the success such as the addition of Adam Vinatieri, there are downsides like one free agent signed by the Colts a year or so prior to Vinatieri that cost the franchise more in millions of dollars than the number of games (13) in which that player appeared.
This year's Colts model is one with more tread on the free agency spending tire than the 2012 version, but the intent of General Manager Ryan Grigson is to drive smartly and avoid spinouts.
"We're not going to do anything fiscally (irresponsible) because I don't want to end up being in cap straits," said Grigson, who had an estimated $38 million in dead money in 2012 as opposed to a reported $44 million surplus today. "We'll be smart how we approach it. We're going to build this thing the right way."
Grigson made all the right moves in his first year, using unrestricted free agency to yield starters in Cory Redding, Tom Zbikowski, Samson Satele and Donnie Avery.
Grigson's 2012 draft class was historic and took shape in part after surveying what free agency additions brought to the roster.
Last year, the Colts came out of the box early in free agency. The club is expected by many observers this year to show more of the same behavior.
Along with resources available, Indianapolis has established plans over the past few weeks to target what it wishes.
"I don't have to try to rub two nickels together to find a key position," said Grigson. "Now, if there's somebody that I really want that I feel is going to get (us) over the hump in a certain area, I could at least take a crack at him."
The aim again is to create as much competition as possible for the 53 active positions. The Colts have bid goodbye to Dwight Freeney and Austin Collie, and other veterans may opt to relocate.
What Grigson seeks is what he imported last year – players that will immerse themselves in the club's culture, who will work and will put the team before anything else.
Last year at this time, it was a mantra. Grigson and Pagano implemented it without deviation, and the nine-game jump from 2-14 was the result of players performing for something greater than themselves.
History has shown many times the "high ticket" free agents may not be the ones who hold to that mind-set.
One AFC team in the mid-1990s accumulated a roster of 19 former first-round drafts and after a 4-0 start, it ended at .500 and missed the playoffs.
Grigson is a personnel architect who loves building the backend of a roster through grit and pluck. He feels elbow grease that is applied more fiercely than other teams can produce results.
He is not as inclined to the upper end names in free agency, and any added must perform like key veterans already on hand.
"The guys that are in the twilight of their careers, if I'm going to look at those types of guys, they need to be pillar players. They need to be the Cory Redding's of the world," said Grigson. "Once you past a certain age, the human body doesn't recuperate as fast. Those guys that we entertain signing near the end of their career, they are going to be guys like the pillar guys that we have here, that can really teach the youth of this roster and also be very highly productive in their own right, still play at a Pro Bowl level."
The green flag drops today. A key period for shaping a franchise starts, be it action or inaction.
This time last year, the expectations were not low. That thought never was permitted in the building by Grigson or Chuck Pagano. The team went 11-5.
This year though the dynamic has changed, the target remains intact.
"The focus is the still the same," said Grigson. "It's a bit different landscape, but it's still the same mindset – (we're) just trying to get better and stay within the vision of trying to win a Super Bowl."