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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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Five observations from Day 1 of Ravens training camp

Five observations from Day 1 of Ravens training camp

OWINGS MILLS – Here are five observations from Day 1 of Ravens’ training camp:

1. Joe Flacco didn’t look like someone who had not practiced since November.

First of all, there is nothing wrong with Flacco’s arm. Early in drills, he effortlessly floated a long pass to rookie Chris Moore on a ball that traveled at least 55 yards in the air. Secondly, Flacco moved well wearing a brace on his surgically-repaired left knee, moving out of the pocket several times without any sign of favoring the injury. It remains to be seen if Flacco feels discomfort after several days of practice, and of course, he is not taking any hits. But this was a good first step.

“It felt really good to be out there,” Flacco said in quotes provided by the team. “I wasn’t as efficient as I’d like to be, but I felt comfortable. I just need to throw it a little better and complete some more passes.”

2. Veteran tight end Ben Watson didn’t have the greatest practice.

The usually sure-handed Watson dropped two passes early. Maybe Watson was nervous in his first practice with Flacco, or maybe he was adjusting to the pace of Flacco’s throws. But Watson will be looking to bounce back quickly, competing for playing time at tight end with Crockett Gillmore, Dennis Pitta, and Maxx Williams.

3. The starter at inside linebacker could be rookie Kamalei Correa.

While Correa is taking reps both outside and inside, the Ravens are searching for a starter at inside linebacker next to C.J. Mosley. If Correa wins the starting job, it means the Ravens’ top two picks, left tackle Ronnie Stanley and Correa, could be starters from Week 1.

4. Pitta looks like Pitta, running patterns and making catches.

Fans still love Pitta, and he received a huge ovation whenever he made a catch. Pitta’s attempt to come back from his second major hip injury is a feel-good story and people are rooting for him.  However, a major test for Pitta will come Saturday when the Ravens put on pads for the first time.

5. John Urschel could be the starter at left guard, but he is also taking reps at center.

Urschel is the favorite to replace Kelechi Osemele as the starting left guard. However, Urschel’s best position may be center. If anything happens to starting center Jeremy Zuttah, the Ravens could shift Urschel to center and play either Ryan Jensen or rookie Alex Lewis at left guard.

RELATED: STANLEY'S ROOKIE SHOW PERFORMANCE WAS ONE FOR THE AGES

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Ronnie Stanley sings 'Ignition Remix' in chicken suit for his teammates

Ronnie Stanley sings 'Ignition Remix' in chicken suit for his teammates

OWINGS MILLS - When the Ravens drafted left tackle Ronnie Stanley, he never expected to sing in front of teammates wearing a chicken suit.

Welcome to the Ravens, and to the traditional rookie talent contest. Stanley led off this year’s draft class as the first-round pick, and apparently, he was a hit. The chicken suit was courtesy of wide receiver Steve Smith Sr., who purchased it for Stanley.

Where exactly do you find a chicken suit that fits somebody 6-foot-6, 320 pounds? But Smith found one. If you are a smart rookie, you don’t say no to Steve Smith. That left Stanley with no choice but to perform wearing the suit.

Stanley chose the R. Kelly song “Ignition Remix” for his selection.

“I knew it was crowd pleaser,” Stanley said after Thursday’s practice. “I know every word to the song. That was the song I picked, so I was practicing all throughout this break that we had.”

Under the circumstances, Stanley felt he did well.

 “I actually didn’t know about the chicken suit until yesterday,” Stanley said. “I did what I had to do. I knew since I was going first, I had to set the tone. That was the first time I sang in a chicken suit.”

Ravens coach John Harbaugh was impressed.

“He did a great job and we had fun,” Harbaugh said. “It’s nice when your first-round pick, kind of the leader of the rookie class, is able to step up and make a statement about that. I can fit in, so to speak.”

No word on if Stanley plans to go on tour after the season.

RELATED: A FEW RAVENS RUNNING BACKS ARE DINGED UP

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Kenneth Dixon hobbled, Lorenzo Taliaferro placed on PUP list

Kenneth Dixon hobbled, Lorenzo Taliaferro placed on PUP list

OWINGS MILLS -- The Ravens deep running back group grew a little thinner – at least temporarily – on Thursday as rookie Kenneth Dixon left the first training camp practice after tweaking his left knee and Lorenzo Taliaferro was placed on the preseason physically-unable-to-perform list with a lingering foot injury.

Dixon had been very active in the noncontact practice, especially as a pass catcher. But as he caught one pass near the left sideline in an 11-on-11 drill, he was inadvertently bumped out of bounds by linebacker Patrick Onwauasor and fell hard to the ground. Dixon was slow to get up and was ultimately helped off the field by Justin Forsett and a trainer.

Dixon has “a slight thing with the knee,” coach John Harbaugh said after practice. “He should be fine.”

Taliaferro sustained a foot injury last year and had surgery that ultimately ended his season in October.

"Not that there's a big issue with it," Harbaugh said of Taliaferro's foot, "but it's not quite there yet."

Entering his third season, Taliaferro is fighting for a roster spot after missing 16 of 32 games over his first two seasons. Forsett, Buck Allen and Dixon all appear to be locks to make the team, leaving Taliaferro competing for a potential fourth running spot with Terrance West and perhaps Trent Richardson, though he, too, is injured.

Taliaferro joins five other Ravens who had previously been placed on the preseason PUP list – receivers Steve Smith and Breshad Perriman, linebackers Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs, and Richardson.

Players can be activated from the PUP list and return to practice at any time during training camp. If they begin the regular season on the PUP list, they must sit out the first six games.

In addition to Taliaferro’s absence, three players sat out Thursday's practice because they haven’t passed the conditioning test: wide receiver Mike Wallace, cornerback Jerraud Powers and newly signed wide receiver Dobson Collins.

RELATED: FLACCO ISN'T WORRIED ABOUT INJURIES AFFECTING HIS POST NFL LIFE