AFC South: Hakeem Nicks

Examining the Indianapolis Colts' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (2)
This is the safest position on the roster for the Colts. They plan to always keep a veteran backup if Luck ever goes down with an injury.

RUNNING BACKS (4)

The Colts will have a solid running combination if -- and we’re saying if until proven wrong -- Richardson can bounce back from a poor first season in Indianapolis and Bradshaw and Ballard can stay injury-free. Havili, a fullback, gets the edge over Mario Harvey, who switched from linebacker to fullback during offseason workouts.

RECEIVERS (5)

The final receiver spot will come down to Rogers and Griff Whalen. If the Colts want to play it safe, Whalen is the guy because he’s familiar with Luck and offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton, but Rogers has the size and speed the team likes. There’s also the possibility of the Colts keeping six receivers.

TIGHT ENDS (4)

Allen, who missed all but one game in 2013, and Fleener have the potential to be one of the top tight end duos in the league. Doyle and Saunders are both familiar with the system after backing up Fleener in Allen’s absence last season.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)

There are plenty of questions surrounding the offensive line outside of tackles Castonzo and Cherilus. The one thing general manager Ryan Grigson wanted with this group is depth. The Colts have plenty of it.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (6)

Like the offensive line, the Colts want depth on the defensive line so they can constantly rotate in players, so come the fourth quarter they still have fresh legs to get after the opponent. Jones was the key offseason acquisition for the Colts. Chapman showed flashes last season; now he needs to do it every snap that he’s on the field.

LINEBACKERS (10)

All eyes will be on outside linebacker as the Colts look to find a replacement for Mathis, who is suspended for the first four games of the season. Werner gets the first crack at starting in Mathis’ spot. McNary is a player for whom Grigson has high expectations. It’ll be up to defensive coordinator Greg Manusky on how he uses McNary.

DEFENSIVE BACKS (10)

It’s anybody’s guess how the secondary will perform. It’s anybody’s guess who will start alongside Landry at safety. It looked like it would be Howell for most of the offseason, but the Colts signed the veteran Adams in June. Can Toler finally remain healthy? Can Davis live up to his contract? So many questions with no answers at the moment.

SPECIALIST

This only changes if an injury occurs.
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INDIANAPOLIS -- So money over marijuana, LaVon Brazill?

That is what Brazill told reporters in training camp in July 2013 after he revealed he was suspended for the first four games of last season for smoking marijuana.

It turns out that was just talk by the Brazill. Now he won’t be making any of the $570,000 he was scheduled to make in 2014 because taking substances not allowed by the NFL is more important.

Brazill
Brazill
The NFL suspended Brazill for at least the 2014 season for again violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. Don’t be surprised if his two-touchdown performance against New England in the playoffs turns out to be the final time you see Brazill in an Indianapolis Colts uniform.

Brazill’s suspension does make things easier for the Colts coaching staff when it comes to picking the final receiver spots on the roster.

He was expected to be one of the primary options with Da'Rick Rogers and Griff Whalen to compete for possibly up to two receiving spots on the roster depending on how many the Colts decide to keep.

Now Rogers and Whalen have the inside track if the Colts go with six receivers on the roster. The Colts are set with the first four receivers: Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton, Hakeem Nicks and Donte Moncrief.

Projecting Colts starters

June, 30, 2014
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INDIANAPOLIS -- A lot can happen for the Indianapolis Colts between now and Week 1 against the Denver Broncos. Injured players become completely healthy. Healthy players get injured. Projected starters get beat out by a teammate.

But that hasn't stopped fans from asking about what the Colts' depth chart will look like this season. It's July and players, coaches and front office officials are taking one last vacation before reporting for the start of training camp in Anderson, Indiana, on July 23. So for the next two days I'll take a shot at who I think the starters will be.

We'll start with the offense today. We'll do the defense on Tuesday.

Quarterback: Andrew Luck, Matt Hasselbeck

Comment: This is self-explanatory. Go ahead and keep Luck's name there as long as he's healthy.

Running back: Trent Richardson, Ahmad Bradshaw, Vick Ballard, Stanley Havili

Comment: As I mentioned last week when I did position battles, Richardson will be given the first shot at starting because of his talent and the last thing the Colts want to show is that their trade for him last September was a failure.

Receiver: Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton, Hakeem Nicks

Comments: The pressure isn't on Wayne to be the Reggie Wayne of a few years ago because he has help with Hilton and Nicks at the position, but Wayne is out to prove that he can still produce at the age 35 and after tearing his ACL.

Tight end: Coby Fleener, Dwayne Allen

Comment: Allen is a better all-around tight end than Fleener, but he missed all but one game last season because of a hip injury.

Offensive line: (LT) Anthony Castonzo, (LG) Jack Mewhort, (C) Khaled Holmes, (RG) Hugh Thornton, (RT) Gosder Cherilus

Comment: The only position really up in the air at the moment is left guard. Mewhort currently has the edge because Donald Thomas didn't take part in offseason workouts and he moved ahead of Lance Louis during organized team activities (OTAs).
INDIANAPOLIS – As much as some may not want to believe it, the clock is ticking on what should end up being a Hall-of-Fame career for Indianapolis Colts receiver Reggie Wayne.

That's why the Colts have to start preparing for life after Wayne once he finally decides to stop making impressive one-handed grabs.

The Colts took a step in doing that when they selected Mississippi receiver Donte Moncrief in the third round.

"We have to always (prepare for not having Wayne), but at the same time he was one of the highest-rated guys on our board," Colts general manager Ryan Grigson said. "He’s a guy that’s done a lot at a high level and he’s still young. He’s still got some things to learn."

Moncrief, who left school early, had 59 catches for 938 yards and six touchdowns last season at Mississippi.

The 20-year-old Moncrief doesn’t have the pressure to contribute right away because the Colts are set at the top three receiver spots with Wayne, T.Y. Hilton and Hakeem Nicks.

"The Colts offense, they spread the ball around," Moncrief said. "The locker room will be great. They have a quarterback in Andrew Luck that you can trust."

The Colts are intrigued by Moncrief’s size -- 6-2, 220 pounds -- and his desire to be an all-around receiver.

"Football is his life and we’re anxious to get him here and see his big body moving around because he can separate," Grigson said. "We just felt like what was almost a fourth-round pick was tremendous value at that spot."

Luck will have abundance of weapons

April, 24, 2014
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Andrew LuckKyle Terada/USA TODAY SportsThe Colts should enter training camp with a healthy group of skill players, including Reggie Wayne.
INDIANAPOLIS – Andrew Luck isn’t a dreamer. You won’t find him with his feet propped up on his couch at home or fantasizing while he’s flying across the Atlantic Ocean to a soccer match in Europe thinking about the plethora of offensive weapons he’ll have at his disposal next season.

It’s understandable that the Indianapolis Colts quarterback doesn’t want to look too far ahead after what he went through last season.

So we’ll look ahead for Luck.

The third-year quarterback led the Colts to an 11-5 record last season, despite missing five offensive starters.

Things should be different next season. He'll have plenty of options, more than he's had his first two seasons in Indianapolis.

Receiver Reggie Wayne (knee), tight end Dwayne Allen (hip), running backs Vick Ballard (knee) and Ahmad Bradshaw (neck) are expected to be healthy, and the Colts added depth at receiver by signing former New York Giant Hakeem Nicks, who had back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in 2010-11.

As crazy as it might seem, you have to wonder: Will there be enough footballs to go around for everybody?

Nicks
"It's a good problem to have," coach Chuck Pagano said. "There's only one football. When you have great competitors and great players like we have, they all want the rock at the same time. They all certainly know you only have one football. It's a great situation that we have getting those guys back, getting Dwayne back, Ahmad, Vick, Reggie and then adding Hakeem. It's a great situation."

It is a great situation, especially when you take into consideration how quickly bodies went down last season for the Colts.

Allen in Week 1. Ballard in between Weeks 2 and 3. Bradshaw in Week 3. Wayne in Week 7.

It got to the point where it wasn't embarrassing to have to do a quick Internet search for players such as receiver Da'Rick Rogers and tight end Weslye Saunders.

Luck still managed to do a lot with a little last season. The Colts averaged 24.4 points, which was 14th in the league, so there is no doubt he can be even more effective with a full cupboard.

That is a scary thought for opposing defensive coordinators.

"It's all about us being on the same page and with the same agenda, and that's winning," Wayne said. "It's always been about that inside our locker room, and that's why I don't see it being a problem."

Egos are something the Colts don't have to worry about when it comes to who is getting the most attention from Luck. That is part of the reason they have made the playoffs each of Luck’s first two seasons. He and offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton will make sure everybody is involved in the offense in some way.

All of Luck's weapons bring something different, which is why the potential of this offense is even more promising.

Wayne is a possession receiver, that security blanket Luck can go to no matter the situation. Hilton is the cocky, speedy player who has no problem letting the defensive backs know when he's made a play on them. Wayne described Nicks as a receiver nobody can cover one-on-one.

The tight end group of Coby Fleener and Allen, the better of the two, has the potential to become one of the top duos in the league. You also can’t forget about the running back trio of Trent Richardson, Ballard and Bradshaw. They don’t have to be dominant, just effective enough to ease some of the pressure on Luck.

"There’s going to be enough [balls to go around]," Hilton said. "We’re a team, so when one guy is having fun, then we all have fun. As long as we're winning and doing the right things, we should be good."

The key, of course, is everybody remaining healthy, and the offensive line has to do its part for the first time with Luck under center. The line will have questions again because Khaled Holmes, who only played 12 snaps last season, has the inside track to be the team's starting center.

That is why Luck and others aren't getting ahead of themselves with the expectations of having an offense that can keep up with Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos, who led the league in scoring at almost 38 points a game last season.

“On paper, we look great. I’m very excited,” Allen said. “I’m really eager to get us all out and together and moving around to see how well we mesh together, and see what different combinations the coaches come up with to put on the field.”
INDIANAPOLIS -- It looks like there won't be a debate over whether new Indianapolis Colts receiver Hakeem Nicks will be able to wear No. 88, the number Marvin Harrison wore during his 13 years with the team.

Nicks
"I don't think we've quite figured that one out yet," Nicks said during a conference call last month. "Everybody knows I love those eights on my chest but we'll have to see how that pans out."

Nicks, who signed a one-year deal, will wear No. 14, according to Colts.com.

It's not surprising that Nicks had to settle for another number. You can't look at the No. 88 jersey and not think about Harrison. He spent his entire career with the Colts, totaling 1,102 receptions for 14,580 yards and 128 touchdowns. Harrison missed out on making the Hall of Fame this year, but he'll be in there sooner than later.

The Colts hope Nicks makes No. 14 a household name for them next season and possibly longer if he's able to have a bounce-back season. He did not catch a touchdown pass for the first time in his career last season with the New York Giants.
INDIANAPOLIS - Will Reggie Wayne not participating in minicamp impact the Indianapolis Colts' chemistry?

Bush
Wayne
That was one of the questions that came up after the receiver said he probably won't take part in the team's minicamp.

No.

Wayne tore his ACL in Week 7 last season. Holding him out until the start of training camp at the end of July is the right thing for the Colts to do.

Wayne is a veteran, he doesn't need to work on his timing with Luck. He's simply excited to be out there with his teammates again even if he'll be limited on what he does.

The fact that 35-year-old Wayne is ahead of schedule is another indication that there's little doubt he'll be able to fully recover from the injury.

Of course there will be questions about how comfortable Wayne will be running sharp routes and making hard plants on his surgically repaired knee.

Don't get me wrong, Wayne wants to be out there during minicamp. He told me he's always been "kind of hard headed," but waiting until training camp is the best thing for him to do.

"It's only natural to think about it, but that's why I'm going to slowly work my way back out there," Wayne said by phone earlier this week.

Wayne has high expectations for the offense now that they've added Hakeem Nicks to join him, T.Y. Hilton and tight ends Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener.
INDIANAPOLIS – The Indianapolis Colts entered free agency last month with the fourth-most salary-cap space ($41 million). General manager Ryan Grigson was very open in saying that they weren’t going to be free spenders on the market.

He was right.

The Colts have been one of the least active teams in the NFL when it comes to signing players that were on other teams last season.

The fine folks at ESPN Stats & Information say the Colts are tied for the second fewest free-agent/trade additions with only four players being signed.

The Colts have signed receiver Hakeem Nicks, defensive lineman Arthur Jones, center Phil Costa and linebacker D’Qwell Jackson. The Colts still have about $13.4 million in salary-cap space available.

Here’s a breakdown of the teams that have made the fewest moves and most moves so far during the offseason:

 
INDIANAPOLIS -- Safety Kurt Coleman will visit the Indianapolis Colts on Friday.

Coleman
That usually means one thing: The Colts have serious interest in him.

Colts general manager Ryan Grigson isn’t one to bring players in for visits without them leaving with a deal. Just ask receiver Hakeem Nicks.

Coleman, a former seventh-round pick, started 29 games from 2010-12 with the Philadelphia Eagles before not starting a game for them last season. Coleman’s best season was in 2012 when he had 93 tackles and two interceptions.

Grigson was with the Eagles in a number of different capacities from 2004-11, and is well aware of Coleman's capabilities.

Mike Chappell of the Indianapolis Star pointed out that Coleman was involved in a helmet-to-helmet hit that knocked Colts receiver Austin Collie out of the Nov. 7, 2010, game in Philadelphia.

Grigson and coach Chuck Pagano recently pointed out that Delano Howell, Sergio Brown and Corey Lynch are options to start alongside LaRon Landry at safety. Longtime Colts safety Antoine Bethea signed with San Francisco last month. Pagano also indicated that they’ll look to select a safety in the May 8-10 draft.
ORLANDO, Fla. -- New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin knows all too well about receiver Hakeem Nicks.

Nicks, the new Indianapolis Colts receiver, spent his first five years in the NFL playing for Coughlin. He had two 1,000-yard receiving seasons and helped the Giants win a Super Bowl.

Nicks
“I think two years ago, he was one of the best receivers in the NFL,” Coughlin said.

Last season was a different story for Nicks. He had 56 catches for 896 yards, but didn’t catch a touchdown pass for the first time in his NFL career.

I spoke to ESPN.com Giants reporter Dan Graziano when Nicks signed this month, and Graziano said the coaches were frustrated with Nicks because he couldn’t make plays in the passing game.

“He’s had some nicks, he’s had some things he’s had to deal with,” Coughlin said. “The production isn’t what it should’ve been last year. We wish Hakeem success, nothing but the best for him. Perhaps this is what he needed, the change he needed -- the reality of our business.”

Nicks signed a one-year deal with the Colts to play alongside Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton at receiver, catch passes from quarterback Andrew Luck and hopefully have a bounce-back season.

“What is there not to like about the guy? He’s a big guy,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. “Very, very athletic, experienced guy, played at a high level, won championships. He brings that with him. He’ll do a great job against press coverage, and teams we’ll have to face. All of them are built to stop the big wide outs. He brings a lot to the table.”

And if Nicks is able to re-establish himself in Indianapolis?

“They’ll have one heck of a football team,” Coughlin said.
Andrew LuckElsa/Getty ImagesWith an improved running game, the Colts won't have to rely on Andrew Luck to save each game.
ORLANDO, Fla. -- It was one of those moments that could easily send chills up your spine or cause you to break out in goose bumps as the words came out of Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano's mouth early Tuesday morning, as the sun was still making its way up in Central Florida.

The Colts have a quarterback -- a pretty a darn good one, I must say -- who has consistently proven in just two short seasons that he has everything it takes to lead a team that has dealt with on- and off-the-field adversity.

Arm? Check.

Mobility? A hidden talent of his.

Mental toughness? There's no question he has that.

The results prove it. Twenty-two regular-season victories. An AFC South division title. A playoff victory.

Enter Pagano.

"From a mindset standpoint, it all starts with running the ball and stopping the run," the coach said in between sips of his coffee. "We do have a great quarterback, with a great arm and he has weapons to throw to. Certainly we understand that and we know that."

Pagano also added that they'll continue to emphasize running the ball, "until they run me out of there."

The Colts will run the ball, especially with three running backs -- Trent Richardson, Vick Ballard and Ahmad Bradshaw -- who have all been starters at some point in their careers. But don't be mistaken about what Pagano said, Luck will still drop back in the pocket and fling the ball downfield more than he hands it off. That's their best chance to win.

There are legitimate question marks about the Colts' top three running backs next season.

Ballard is coming off a torn ACL. Bradshaw needs to prove he can stay healthy. Richardson, well, simply put, he's still a work in progress after being traded to Indianapolis early last season.

The Colts tried to run the ball in 2013. But the thought of them having anything close to a ground game came to a halt in Week 3 when Bradshaw's season ended because of a neck injury. Richardson and Donald Brown simply didn't get the job done -- partially because of offensive line problems and partially because of a lack of production from the two running backs.

That left Luck using his arm to bail the Colts out of deficits. They threw the ball 582 times compared to 409 rush attempts last season.

The NFL is a copycat league. What the Colts and 27 other teams saw was the final four teams playing -- New England, Denver, Seattle and San Francisco -- all mixing in the run to go with their talented quarterbacks.

The Colts experienced it firsthand, as the Patriots ran for 234 yards against them in their AFC divisional playoff matchup -- a 43-22 loss.

A successful run game is what Indianapolis wants. Not Luck strapping on his cape to lead the Colts back from constant double-digit holes.

Also, Luck could have his best arsenal of weapons to throw to in his young career with the addition of receiver Hakeem Nicks to go with fellow receiver T.Y. Hilton, tight end Coby Fleener and the hopeful healthy return of receiver Reggie Wayne and tight end Dwayne Allen. Throw in a consistent running game -- cross your fingers the offensive line can block better -- and it's the type of offense that will allow the Colts to be successful.

"We're not going to try to do things to make us lose," Colts general manager Ryan Grigson said. "...All that matters at the end of the day is that you make the playoffs and if you can win in the playoffs. We don't want to make it all on Andrew. We want to give him help with our stable of running backs and [with] our offensive line creating those lanes to open up the play-action pass, so it takes the pressure off of him."
The Carolina Panthers made an offer to Hakeem Nicks thinking they had a legitimate shot to sign the former New York Giants receiver.

That was until the Indianapolis Colts stepped in and not only offered Nicks a one-year contract worth up to $5.5 million, but also an opportunity to be on the receiving end of passes from quarterback Andrew Luck and be a part of a team that could be one of the best in the AFC next season.

ESPN.com Panthers reporter David Newton and Colts reporter Mike Wells talk about Nicks' decision to sign with Indianapolis

[+] EnlargeHakeem Nicks
Al Bello/Getty ImagesHakeem Nicks chose the Indianapolis Colts over the Carolina Panthers.
Wells: David, Carolina quarterback Cam Newton proved last season that he's one of the best young quarterbacks in the league. But Luck has proven in just two years -- with 22 victories -- that he has the complete package: arm, foot speed and mental toughness. So it seems Nicks made the right decision to sign with the Colts. What are your thoughts?

Newton: Totally agree. When Nicks picked Indy over Carolina I mentioned one of the reasons may have been Luck was the more proven quarterback. It didn't sit well with Carolina fans. My argument was simple. Two trips to the playoffs to one. But the bigger reason is Nicks will be surrounded by proven receivers in Indy. Maybe that would have happened at Carolina, but at the time of the decision the Panthers didn't have a receiver on its roster with an NFL catch. When Brandon LaFell signed with New England on Saturday that guaranteed Newton won't have any of his top four wide receivers from last season. At Carolina, Nicks risked the possibility of being double-teamed because there wasn't anybody proven to take coverage away. He would have been the clear-cut No. 1, and I'm not sure he's a No. 1. Luck also has a more established offensive line. So when I said Luck was more proven there were other factors around that.

Having said that, if you were starting a team from scratch would you pick Luck or Newton?

Wells: I like how Newton played last season, but I've still got to give Luck the edge over him and players such as Seattle's Russell Wilson and San Francisco's Colin Kaepernick. Luck's résumé speaks for itself. He led the Colts to an 11-5 record during a rookie season when his coach, Chuck Pagano, missed 12 games while battling cancer. He repeated that record last season while losing five offensive starters by Week 7. Luck has led the Colts on 11 fourth quarter or overtime game-winning drives in his young NFL career. Should I continue? It also helps that Luck's Colts have already beaten the Seahawks and 49ers. Maybe you and I can corner Rob Chudzinski somewhere after the season and ask him his thoughts because he obviously coached Newton in Carolina and he's about to coach Luck with the Colts next season.

It seems like the Panthers don't seem to know which direction they're headed with players like receiver Steve Smith being released. Am I wrong to think that could sway a free agent's decision?

Newton: It would have to cast doubt. It certainly casts doubt in my mind. It'll all come down to how convincing general manager Dave Gettleman is on selling his plan. And yes, there's a plan. Jerricho Cotchery is coming in for a visit on Monday and James Jones says he'd like to play for Carolina. If the Panthers can get a couple of solid veterans -- even if they aren't bona fide No. 1s, and select a dynamic receiver with either their first- or second-round pick, the receiving corps potentially could be better than last season. Even Smith admitted he's not a No. 1 anymore. So for all the grief I've given Gettleman for making a mistake in dumping Smith, in the long run it could work out. I mean, the beef on LaFell last season was he wasn't a bona fide No. 2. Ted Ginn Jr. had a nice season, but he had only two catches the year before. Domenik Hixon had only one catch that impacted a game. So big picture, they didn't really lose a lot.

So how do you expect Nicks to fit in at Indianapolis? Can he help put Indy over the top?

Wells: Colts fans are a little leery because there was high hope last year when Darrius Heyward-Bey, the No. 7 pick in the 2009 draft, signed a one-year contract the same way Nicks did. Heyward-Bey, to put it as nice as possible, was brutal last season. So brutal that he ended up being demoted to special teams where he actually did a great job downing punts inside the 20-yard line. I think Nicks will fit in nicely because he doesn't have the pressure of being the No. 1 receiver. He simply has to just fit in alongside of fellow receivers Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton. Tight ends Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener are also receiving options for Luck. The fact that Nicks had almost 900 yards receiving last season and that was considered a down year for him is a good thing for the Colts. Luck will find him as long as he can get open.

Newton needs somebody to throw the ball to. What are the Panthers going to do since Smith is gone and Nicks decided playing with the Colts was a better option?

Newton: As I mentioned above, Cotchery is coming in for a visit and I still believe they'll get Jones. The plan is to find a few bargains and blend them in with a draft pick. Smith would have made a nice No. 2 receiver in this package in my opinion. But from everything I gather Newton won't be heartbroken to see his top receiver gone. Smith has gotten in Newton's face more than a few times the past few years. As much as that may have been needed, there is a belief on the team that Smith might have been a distraction to Newton as the central leader of the offense. It will be interesting to hear how Newton spins it when we finally hear from him.

Now that the Colts have Nicks, what's the rest of their free-agency plans?

Wells: General manager Ryan Grigson has put an emphasis on defense so far. They still need to find a safety to replace Antoine Bethea, who signed with San Francisco last week. The interior part of the offensive line could use some help, too. They signed former Dallas center Phil Costa last week. The Colts haven't completely shut the door on Cleveland center Alex Mack even though it is a longshot that they'll be to get him because the Browns used the transition tag on him. Adding another guard wouldn't be a bad idea, either.
INDIANAPOLIS – The past is the past.

That’s how new Indianapolis Colts receiver Hakeem Nicks views things. He has no interest in talking about his last season with the New York Giants, one where he didn’t catch a touchdown pass for the first time in his five-year NFL career.

Nicks is excited about the opportunity to catch passes from quarterback Andrew Luck (who wouldn’t be excited?), being reunited with Chuck Pagano, who was the defensive coordinator at the University of North Carolina when Nicks was a sophomore, and teaming with Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton to give the Colts a “three-headed monster” at receiver.

[+] EnlargeHakeem Nicks
AP Photo/Evan PinkusAfter failing to grab a TD pass in 2013, Hakeem Nicks says he's ready for a fresh start in Indianapolis.
“This is the best situation for me, a great organization and a chance to come in and show them what I can do and what I can bring to the table,” Nicks said as he made his way to Indianapolis International Airport. “I’m familiar with a lot of the coaches, especially the wide receiver coach [Charlie Williams], he coached me in college. There are definitely some relationships here. I’m excited about working.”

Nicks considers himself another piece for the Colts as they attempt to close the gap between them and Denver and New England in the AFC. Nicks will team with Hilton and Wayne at receiver to go with tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen.

“I heard a lot of good things about [the Colts] -- obviously what they’ve got going and the direction that they’re moving in,” Nicks said. “I feel like it was the best fit for me just to come in and complete the piece of the puzzle to try to compete for a Super Bowl this year.”

ESPN.com Giants reporter Dan Graziano wrote Friday night that Nicks lacked incentive when he had 896 yards receiving and no touchdowns last season with the Giants. Nicks, according to Graziano, frustrated the coaches because he couldn’t make plays in the passing game.

Nicks, who signed a one-year deal, had no interest in talking about whether he needed to have a bounce-back season to silence the doubters. He had back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in 2010 and 2011.

“I don’t think there’s anything for me to prove,” he said. “I think I just want to go out there and play football and win championships. My play speaks for itself. I've always believed in working in silence and letting your game speak loud, so that’s what I do. They’ll see and then all start making speculations again.”

One thing that still has to get resolved with Nicks is what number he’ll wear. He wore No. 88 with the Giants, but that number is retired with the Colts; Marvin Harrison wore it during what will end up as a Hall of Fame career.

“I don’t think we've quite figured that one out yet,” Nicks said. “Everybody knows I love those eights on my chest, but we’ll have to see how that pans out.”
INDIANAPOLIS -- Ryan Grigson didn't have time to spare five minutes on the phone to do an interview. He was too busy talking and wearing his thumbs out texting agents as he prepared for the start of free agency.

The questions, just three of them I might add, were sent via email to the Indianapolis Colts general manager.

"In the middle of free agency, I felt like I had a homework assignment due," Grigson jokingly wrote after answering the questions.

[+] EnlargeRyan Grigson
AP Photo/Johnny VyRyan Grigson and the Colts have set the expectations high, and nothing short of the Super Bowl will suffice for the general manager.
If you know Grigson, you know he's always working, never settling for what happened in the past. He's that nonstop workaholic who is always believing another move should be made to improve the team.

That mindset was a necessity for Grigson when he took over for the fired Bill Polian in 2012. The Colts were coming off a 2-14 season after which they not only dismissed Polian, but also said their final goodbyes to quarterback Peyton Manning after 14 years, 11 playoff games and two Super Bowl appearances.

So the rebuilding process couldn't take long for Grigson, the first-time general manager. Not with holdovers like Reggie Wayne, Robert Mathis and Antoine Bethea used to winning.

Grigson is headed into Year 3 of not rebuilding the Colts, but building off the success the franchise has had in the past two years.

They're 22-10 and made the playoffs in each of the past two seasons, while dealing with the loss of coach Chuck Pagano for 12 games while battling leukemia in 2012 and the loss of five offensive starters last season.

"The element of surprise kind of goes away when you have such high expectations," Grigson said. "This is a winning organization and the bar is set high. I think that kind of environment is a healthy one for everyone involved. I'd hate to be somewhere that your expectation was anything less than being Super Bowl champs every year."

Grigson and Pagano walked into the perfect situation.

Andrew Luck, the best quarterback taken No. 1 overall since, well, Manning in 1998, led an impressive Colts 2012 draft class that also included receiver T.Y. Hilton and tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen.

Grigson's obsessive, always-needing-to-be-working mindset is in high gear because the Colts are in position to take another step in the AFC next season. Manning and New England's Tom Brady are a year older and moving another step toward the Hall of the Fame.

Now it's up to Grigson to add the proper pieces around Luck. This is the perfect time for the general manager to redeem himself after his 2013 offseason moves didn't live up to expectations.

"No matter the circumstances, the last two years we expected to be in the Super Bowl and believed in that goal until the last tick came off the clock," Grigson said. "Year 3 will be no different; we just have to find a way to see it all the way through."

Indianapolis went into free agency on Tuesday with the fifth-most salary cap space.

Just like in Green Bay, players want to play in Indianapolis despite the small-market mentality some have about the city.

Linebacker D'Qwell Jackson, who the Colts signed to a four-year deal on March 6, was attracted to the franchise's history of success. That's understandable after he spent his first eight years in Cleveland, where that organization appears to be just spinning in circles.

Pagano is more than a coach to the players. He's the person who will ask a player about his off-the-field life nearly as much as he talks about offensive and defensive schemes.

"Having a sitdown dinner with him, I knew right away he was a good guy," Jackson said. "We barely talked football. Any time you can do that, you know you're dealing with a good guy. He's been through a lot in his life, obviously. The guy is high on life and I want to be around people like that."

Luck's arm, legs, smarts and mental toughness are the main reasons why the transition from the Manning era hasn't been too turbulent. It's also why Indianapolis is an organization that will remain a destination for free agents as long as the kid from Stanford is taking the snaps from center.

Former New York Giants receiver Hakeem Nicks has already publicly talked about wanting to catch passes from Luck.

"First of all, winning makes you an attractive team," punter Pat McAfee said. "But I think the chance to hitch your wagon to an up-and-coming, hopefully Hall of Fame quarterback, which [Luck] should be, I think that's a big deal for a lot of the older guys that are looking for a ring, or maybe for the younger guys that are trying to jump-start their career. I think Indianapolis is becoming a very, very promising-looking destination for a lot people who want to win and hitch their wagon to a player who's going to be great for a very long time."

INDIANPOLIS -- Former New York Giants receiver Hakeem Nicks has the Indianapolis Colts on his radar as a future team to play for.

Nicks mentioned the Colts, Carolina and San Diego to ESPN's Josina Anderson as teams that intrigue him.

Nicks
Luck
"Ideally this is what I want: I want to go to a team where I'm the missing link. There are a number of teams that I have my eye on once I hit the market. I know if I went to a place like Indianapolis I would be dangerous with a quarterback like Andrew Luck. I can see myself catching passes from Cam Newton or even Philip Rivers. Players have already started to reach out to me from other teams saying they would love for me to come join them. I just want to make it clear that I want a long-term deal and I want to be happy. I'm excited about talking to teams and making it work."

This won't be the last time that a receiver talks about playing with Luck.

Why would it be?

Luck is one of the premier young quarterbacks in the league. The Colts will be a playoff team, even a Super Bowl contender at some point, as long as Luck continues to get better -- which will happen -- and they keep talent around him.

The Colts are in need of a veteran receiver to go with T.Y. Hilton and Reggie Wayne. Wayne is working his way back from a torn ACL, so a player like Nicks fits the veteran description.

But there's an “if” when it comes to Nicks.

The “if” is if Nicks can stay healthy.

He dealt with foot and knee problems during his final two seasons with the Giants. ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported Saturday that Nicks started circulating medical assurance from a specialist that past injury problems won't impact him next season.

Nicks caught 79 passes for 1,052 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2010. He followed it up with 76 catches for 1,192 yards and seven touchdowns. Nicks only had 56 catches for 896 yards and no touchdowns last season.

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