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Colts GM ready to chase free agents who can help

Colts GM ready to chase free agents who can help

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Now that general manager Ryan Grigson has money to spend in free agency, he's devising a new game plan.

If he can find a big-named, high-priced free agent that could get Indianapolis to the Super Bowl, he's willing to pay top dollar. If he can find a lesser-known player for a bargain, he's willing to roll the dice, too.

Either way, Grigson finally has the flexibility to do whatever it takes to make the 2013 Colts better than they were last season.

``I don't have to rub two nickels together to find a key position. Now, if there's something 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,'' Grigson told a small group of reporters Tuesday at the team complex. ``I feel almost in a sense like I don't want to go after a name just because that's easy. There's guys out there, that to me, that if you really scout this league and you really know this league, you can find guys that are under the radar that are right under people's noses, just because you dig a little harder and you have a better feel for some guys than the next team does.''

It's a far cry from the financial mess Grigson inherited when team owner Jim Irsay hired him last January.

Indy wound up releasing Peyton Manning, cutting a handful of other fan favorites and letting several other key contributors leave in free agency just to scrape enough money together to start rebuilding. Then Grigson had to go bargain-shopping to fill in the gaps, all the while looking ahead to Year 2 as the season Indy could make the big jump.

Somehow, though, Grigson cobbled together a unit that went 11-5 and wound up in the playoffs.

Now, he's going back to work with an opportunity to give Andrew Luck & Co. more talent. Indy heads into this offseason with 58 players already signed to contracts and more than $40 million available under a salary cap that is expected to come in at about $121 million

With that much available room, Grigson can go after almost any player he covets in free agency - even if he's not ready to say what he'll do.

Grigson declined to identify specific plans, players or areas he hopes to improve in free agency though it is widely believed the two areas Indy will try to upgrade are the offensive line, which allowed 41 sacks, and a secondary that continually gave up 100-yard games to receivers throughout the second half of the season.

``Andrew has to get hit less, we know that,'' said Grigson, a former offensive lineman. ``Andrew took a lot of shots this year but also keep this in mind, and I say this with a lot of conviction, there was only I believe four games this year where our starting offensive line played together. How can you have a cohesive unit?''

The list of offensive tackles that could be available in free agency includes Jermon Bushrod, Ryan Clady, Jake Long and Andre Smith. Cornerbacks such as Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Cary Williams also could become free agents.

Grigson always has the draft, too, something that seems to be looking better by the week.

On Tuesday, Grigson acknowledged that the Colts will keep two conditional picks they originally traded to Philadelphia and Miami during the preseason, and that he's hoping to get some additional supplemental picks, after losing Dallas Clark, Pierre Garcon, Jeff Saturday and Jacob Tamme in free agency last year.

That's not all.

Grigson also confirmed that the Colts are in strong pursuit of 300-pound defensive tackle Armond Armstead, who has been playing in the Canadian Football League.

``He was here on a visit, he's a talented guy, I feel he fits this defense nice and had some versatility with this defense,'' Grigson said.

Irsay is content to let Grigson do pretty much whatever he deems necessary to make Indy a Super Bowl contender.

``It's going to be an exciting offseason,'' Irsay said. ``Ryan really understands how in putting a team together you don't just go to the board and pick a player. He has a naturally intuitive ability to see how all the components come together and complement each other.''

And for Grigson, who is still trying to figure out whether Bruce Arians will be back as offensive coordinator and who will coach special teams next season, he can't wait to get started on what could be Indy's biggest move into free agency in years.

``I feel confident that we are going to be able to sign some guys that may not be household names, but they are going to fit really well, they are going to play Colts football for 60 minutes and they are going to do their job at a high level, despite not being maybe that splash name,'' Grigson said.

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Offensive, defensive and rookie of the year awards for Ravens' 2017 season

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USA Today Sports

Offensive, defensive and rookie of the year awards for Ravens' 2017 season

The Ravens' season had it's ups and down, but out of it came some bright spots.

The defense continued to prove dominate and the offense found its groove during the second half of the season, but who stood out the most?

Offensive MVP: RB Alex Collins

Collins was a late preseason pickup after being cut by the Seattle Seahawks and Ravens fans are grateful they let him go. After new acquisition Danny Woodhead injured his hamstring on the first drive in Week 1 and Terrance West injured his calf Week 5 in Oakland, Allen emerged as a saving grace. He finished the season with 973 yards, six touchdowns and 212 attempts averaging 4.6 yards-per-carry. His longest rushing attempt was 50-yards against the Steelers in Week 4, and then in Week 14, rushed 120-yards on their defense. 

RELATED: RAVENS' 2018 NFL MOCK DRAFT ROUNDUP

Defensive MVP: OLB Terrell Suggs

This one was a toss up between Suggs and inside linebacker C.J. Mosley, but considering the level at which Sizzle is playing at in his 15th season, his 2017 performance is MVP worthy.

The 35-year old finished the season with 49 combined tackles, 12 assist, 11 sacks and four forced fumbles. Suggs ranks 11th in the league in sacks and was voted to his seventh Pro Bowl, something that should be expected from the leader of a defense that finished the regular season ranked sixth in points allowed. During the Ravens' Week 12 matchup, Suggs proved he doesn't age when he strip sacked Texans QB Tom Savage with 4:44 remaining in the fourth, shifting the momentum back to the Ravens who were clinging on to a 23-16 win. He's suffered two Achilles tears and a torn bicep over the last 5.5 seasons but has remained Hall of Fame worthy. As of right now, T-Sizzle has no plans of retiring. 

RELATED: FIVE OFFSEASON QUESTIONS RAVENS MUST ANSWER

Rookie of the Year: CB Marlon Humphrey

The Ravens' 2017 first-round pick stepped up to the plate when starting CB Jimmy Smith's season was over after suffering a torn Achilles in Week 13. The rookie out of Alabama finished the season with 34 combined tackles, four assists and two interceptions. Pro Football Focus graded Humphrey the fifth-best cover corner in the league. QBs only had a 53.5 rating when they threw in his direction. PFF also gave Humphrey a 82.7 rookie rating. 

Humphrey will continue to prove his worth during the 2018 season if Jimmy Smith is still recovering come Week 1.

RELATED: IMPORTANT 2018 OFFSEASON DATES

Special Teams MVP: P Sam Koch

Koch is in his 12th season with the Ravens and he's continuing to prove how efficient that leg of his is. He had a season long of 67-yards and placed 40 of 84 punts inside the 20-yard line. Koch's accuracy earned him AFC special teams player of the week not once, but twice this season. The first came in Week 12 against the Houston Texans when he not only placed five punts inside the 20-yard line, but also faked a punt and threw a 22-yard pass to Chris Moore for a first down. The second honor came in Week 15 against the Cleveland Browns after placing four punts inside the 20-yard line, three of them inside the five. While neither Koch or kicker Justin Tucker were named to the Pro Bowl, Ravens fans never break a sweat when the game is in their hands, or should we say, legs.

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Important 2018 offseason dates for Baltimore Ravens

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USA Today Sports

Important 2018 offseason dates for Baltimore Ravens

Mark your calendars now because the Ravens are already gearing up for their 2018 season.

From the Pro-Bowl all the way to the start of the regular season, here are the key dates.

January 28th: Pro Bowl, Orlando, Fla. 

Safety Eric Weddle, outside linebacker Terrell Suggs and inside linebacker C.J. Mosley will all be in attendance. In addition, Suggs and Weddle were named starters. The game will take place at Camping World Stadium. Kickoff is at 3:00 p.m. ET on ABC and ESPN.

February 3rd: Pro Football Hall of Fame 2018 Class announced

This will be a very important day for Ray Lewis and the Ravens organization as Lewis waits to here if he will be sealed into football history, one day prior to Super Bowl LII. 

February 5th: Waiver system takes effect

The waiver system allows players' contracts or a club's NFL rights to a player available to other clubs in the league. Upon doing this, the other 31 teams can place a claim to obtain him or waive their chance. During this 24- hour period, once a club waives a player it can not take the player back or change his status. Assignments are based upon draft order until the third week of the regular season. If a player does not get claimed, he becomes a free agent. 

February 20th:  First day to franchise or transition tag a player

February 27th- March 5th: NFL Scouting Combine, Indianapolis, IN

This seven day period will be crucial for General Manager Ozzie Newsome to get a good look at potential Ravens.

March 6th: Deadline to franchise or transition tag a player

March 12-14th: Teams are allowed to contact and negotiate with agents of players scheduled to become unrestricted free agents

March 14th: Start of new league year at 4:00 p.m. ET

At this time, all 2017 player contracts expire meaning teams can begin seeking and signing free agents. Ravens free agents include Mike Wallace, Benjamin Watson, Ryan Jensen, Terrance West, James Hurst, Michael Campanaro, Steven Johnson, Ryan Mallet, Brandon Boykin, Crockett Gillmore, Brent Urban and Luke Bowanko.

March 25-28th: Owners Meeting, Orlando, FL

April 16th: Voluntary OTA's can begin

April 20th: Deadline for restricted FA's to sign offer sheets

April 26th-28th: 2018 NFL Draft, Arlington, TX

The Ravens will be heading down to Arlington, Texas in hopes of picking up their next franchise player. Positions needed include wide receiver, tight end, quarterback and outside linebacker.

May 4-7th or 11-14th: Potential three-day rookie minicamp

May 31-June 2nd: Ravens Beach Bash, Ocean City, MD

July 16th: Deadline to get long-term deal done with designated franchise tag player 

Mid-Late July: Training camp begins

August 2nd: Hall of Fame Game, Canton, OH

August 4th: Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, Canton, OH

Again, keep this date marked as it could be the day Ray Lewis is inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

September 6th: Start of regular season