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Mr. Laz
01-22-2006, 09:00 PM
Likely plan: Wayne stays, James leaves
Colts face tough decisions on 13 unrestricted free agents

By Mike Chappell
mike.chappell@indystar.com

Difficult offseason decisions loom for team president Bill Polian.

What to do with running back Edgerrin James? How about wide receiver Reggie Wayne? James is likely to go and Wayne is likely to stay, but they are just two of 13 Indianapolis Colts who will become unrestricted free agents.

What areas need shoring up? What's atop the team's shopping list in the April draft?

Those issues will be addressed, as they always have been, when emotions aren't so raw and so apt to influence judgments that must steer the team into 2006 and beyond.

"You need to take the emotion out of it, which I'm not quite ready to do just yet,'' Polian said Thursday, the sting of the Colts' 21-18 playoff loss to Pittsburgh still fresh.

Once the mind clears, he added, the Colts must "make some informed judgments as to where the team is and where it needs to go.''

Personnel changes figure to be few but significant. Five starters and place-kicker Mike Vanderjagt are among the players whose contracts expire in early March.

"One thing I'm sure of is we don't need to do a lot of building or reworking,'' Polian said. "We don't have nearly the momentous problems that the emotions would make you think we do.

"This is a good team and will remain a good team. As I sit here now, there are probably some spots we're going to need to shore up. We'll have some losses due to free agency. You always do.''

The first order of business is determining which players are vital to the team's future, which ones can be replaced via free agency or the draft, and which ones are affordable.

The status of James and Wayne is the most intriguing offseason issue for the Colts.

James is the team's career rushing leader and coming off one of his best seasons (1,506 rushing yards, 1,843 total yards from scrimmage, 14 total touchdowns). He'll be 28 when the '06 season opens. Wayne led the Colts in receptions in '05 with 83. He's gotten better each season, and is 27.

It's a given Wayne and James will seek lucrative long-term contracts. Wayne probably would draw the most interest on the free agent market. James found no takers last offseason when the Colts allowed him to solicit trade offers after they named him their franchise player, and there's no guarantee the interest will be there in March.

Polian declined to address specific players in Thursday's interview, but there are indications the Colts will retain either James or Wayne, not both.

If that's the case, it's Wayne. Polian has told The Star in previous discussions Wayne "isn't going anywhere'' and reiterated that stance on his most recent Monday night radio show.

Just how the team retains Wayne remains to be seen. The most likely scenario is under the one-year franchise tag.

The NFL and its players association have been unable to reach middle ground on an extension for the collective bargaining agreement. Without one, the 2006 season will be the final one governed by the salary cap; '07 will be an uncapped year.

"The clock's ticking,'' Polian said.

Minus an 11th-hour resolution, a new set of rules goes into effect for player contracts. Signing bonuses of new deals can be prorated for only four years. More concerning is the "30 percent rule,'' which states a player's base salary can increase only 30 percent each subsequent year from the start of the deal.

Previously, teams have kept a player's initial salary cap number relatively low with backloaded deals: a big signing bonus and low base salaries in the first couple of years that mushroom later. That blueprint no longer will work. To satisfy the financial demands of a marquee player, such as Wayne or James, a team will have to "front load'' deals, paying big initial base salaries along with the big signing bonus. That will result in a big cap number right away. One option to at least keep a cap number reasonable will be to greatly inflate the signing bonus, which can be prorated. That requires an owner with deep pockets.

Under the new system, cash in the form of guaranteed signing bonuses will be paramount.

Colts owner Jim Irsay already must dole out roster bonuses of $10 million to wide receiver Marvin Harrison and $9 million to quarterback Peyton Manning, and an $8 million option bonus to defensive tackle Corey Simon. Backup running back Dominic Rhodes is due a $1.45 million roster bonus. There's a chance the team will not pay that, making him an unrestricted free agent.

Given the huge payouts due and uncertainty regarding the CBA, the only realistic option with Wayne is the franchise tag. A likely byproduct is the exit of James.

"It could be anybody,'' Polian said. "It's somebody every year. I know the fans are frustrated when that happens, but they should understand I'm as frustrated as they are, maybe more."

"You always have a loss in free agency that breaks your heart -- Marcus Pollard, Marcus Washington, Rick DeMulling. You don't like it, but that's the system and you have to move forward.''


Colts' unrestricted free agents

(Player can sign with any other team with no compensation to the Colts):

Player Noteworthy Comment
RB Edgerrin James Club's career rushing leader It's probably James or Wayne, and we don't think Wayne is going anywhere. We're going to miss you, Edge.

WR Reggie Wayne Led team in receptions in '05 With all due respect to Marvin Harrison, Wayne's the future go-to guy.

PK Mike Vanderjagt NFL's most accurate kicker It probably was time for Vandy and the team to move on before the errant 46-yarder vs. Pittsburgh.

LB David Thornton Three-year starter Has developed into solid starter, and worth retaining if the price is right.

DE Raheem Brock Three-year starter Versatility makes him one of the unheralded members of the D-line. Bring him back.

DT Larry Tripplett Appeared in 60 games Coming off his best season, but depth along the line might make him expendable.

LB Rob Morris Veteran of 82 games Worth re-signing, probably at veteran's minimum. Reliable backup and good special teams player.
RB James Mungro 11 TDs in 43 games The team likes what he brings and likely will bring him back.

WR Troy Walters 3 TDs in '05 Would be an inexpensive punt returner and No. 4 receiver, again.

CB Joseph Jefferson Finished '05 on IR Has plenty of potential, but injuries have impeded his progress.

LB Rocky Calmus Spent '05 on IR Might return and provide veteran depth at position.

K Jose Cortez Kickoff specialist Probably worth taking to training camp, but a more reliable field goal kicker is needed.

OL Kurt Vollers Experienced option Not a priority. Might get a chance to show worth at training camp. [/B]

ck_IN
01-22-2006, 09:04 PM
This could get real interesting. Wayne is the real #1 WR in Indy. But James is the motor behind the offense.

It'll be interesting to see how this all pans out.

SLAG
01-22-2006, 09:06 PM
I thought James signed a 6 Year 66Mil Contract last year or something

John_Wayne
01-22-2006, 09:07 PM
I'd like to see the Chiefs pick up Mike Vanderjagt but I'm sure he'll be too expensive.

SLAG
01-22-2006, 09:08 PM
I'd like to see the Chiefs pick up Mike Vanderjagt but I'm sure he'll be too expensive.



There is nothing wrong with LT

ck_IN
01-22-2006, 09:22 PM
James was tagged to the tune of $8mill last year.

If it comes down to it they've said they'll tag Wayne leaving James an UFA.

Bowser
01-22-2006, 09:37 PM
I'd like to see the Chiefs pick up Mike Vanderjagt but I'm sure he'll be too expensive.


What the ****???

Valiant
01-23-2006, 12:48 AM
Is Lilje(sp?) a FA yet.. We need to get our man back...

Rausch
01-23-2006, 01:21 AM
I'd like Tripplett...

Deberg_1990
01-23-2006, 02:00 AM
I'd like to see the Chiefs pick up Mike Vanderjagt but I'm sure he'll be too expensive.


Why would u want that little liquered up kicker??

Cochise
01-23-2006, 02:14 AM
They were trying to unload James before this season, but supposedly didn't find a suitable deal. I can't really see him sticking around there, nor can I see them letting both him and Wayne go at once.

As much as I would like to see Wayne in KC I doubt it becomes a possibility - the price he would command on the free agent market notwithstanding.

Amnorix
01-23-2006, 06:51 AM
Polian can drop dead. His problems are my happiness. Other than Al Davis, there's no one in a front office position in the NFL that I actively dislike other than Polian.

petegz28
01-23-2006, 08:35 AM
I'd like Tripplett...

Agreed I would take him.

jspchief
01-23-2006, 09:08 AM
Why would u want that little liquered up kicker??Well, he is one of the the most accurate kickers in the league. One bad post-season kick is hardly the benchmark of his capabilities.

All the same, he's a dome kicker, has a big mouth, and would come with a price tag. I wouldn't want him.

RedThat
01-23-2006, 09:30 AM
Guys, why would you want Vanderjat?

You know who else is available?

Adam Vinatieri!

*I'd rather have him instead

MOhillbilly
01-23-2006, 09:38 AM
Tripplet is no better than whats in KC now.

http://www.nfl.com/players/playerpage/302232

give me a guy who goes 340+ KC doesnt need another 295# overtackle trying to play undertackle.

Hoover
01-23-2006, 09:39 AM
There is no way that team can let Edge walk. Wayne is a great WR, but you can't tie up even more cash at that position since you already unloaded the bank on Harrison and Peyton. Manning shoudl be able to "make" another star WR, Farve has done it, heck all Great QBs do it.

Seek
01-23-2006, 09:44 AM
I bet they drop Corey Simon. Those roster bonuses for Manning and Harrison are going to hurt. The 8 million option bonus, is sounds like a savings to me. Very much like us cutting K. Bell.

BigChiefFan
01-23-2006, 09:44 AM
Guaranteed there WILL be takers for Edgerrin James services. He's still a great scatback and he would UPGRADE alot teams running game.

Wile_E_Coyote
01-23-2006, 09:48 AM
Polian can drop dead. His problems are my happiness. Other than Al Davis, there's no one in a front office position in the NFL that I actively dislike other than Polian.

there is a Colts forum I have lurked for 10 months or so & there is almost always Colts & Pats fans punching & jabbing. Few Jag, Tit or Texans, but man do the Colts & Pats fans love going at each other

MOhillbilly
01-23-2006, 09:50 AM
Guaranteed there WILL be takers for Edgerrin James services. He's still a great scatback and he would UPGRADE alot teams running game.

No team wanted him a few years ago when indy was looking to dump him.

Wile_E_Coyote
01-23-2006, 09:51 AM
there is a Colts forum I have lurked for 10 months or so & there is almost always Colts & Pats fans punching & jabbing. Few Jag, Tit or Texans, but man do the Colts & Pats fans love going at each other

~& boy do the Colts fans dislike Whitlock ROFL

Amnorix
01-23-2006, 09:52 AM
there is a Colts forum I have lurked for 10 months or so & there is almost always Colts & Pats fans punching & jabbing. Few Jag, Tit or Texans, but man do the Colts & Pats fans love going at each other

Yeah, but it's like watching a hammer and a nail go at each other. I mean, for all the ungodly hype they get, they've been to 1 AFC Championship Game, which was a blowout, and zero Super Bowls, in the entire Manning Era. Give me a break.

BigChiefFan
01-23-2006, 09:57 AM
No team wanted him a few years ago when indy was looking to dump him.
There's a BIG difference between giving up draft picks for a player and just picking him up as a FREE AGENT. There are several teams that would be improved if Edgerrin James became their starting HB. He will be in HIGH DEMAND, IMO. Teams like the Cards, the 49ers, Raiders, and Texans would all be better if the Edge became their HB.

MOhillbilly
01-23-2006, 10:01 AM
There's a BIG difference between giving up draft picks for a player and just picking him up as a FREE AGENT. There are several teams that would be improved if Edgerrin James became their starting HB. He will be in HIGH DEMAND, IMO. Teams like the Cards, the 49ers, Raiders, and Texans would all be better if the Edge became their HB..


on the flipside-why would those teams want to pay big money for an ageing RB when they will fill those needs in the Draft?

Amnorix
01-23-2006, 10:06 AM
There's a BIG difference between giving up draft picks for a player and just picking him up as a FREE AGENT. There are several teams that would be improved if Edgerrin James became their starting HB. He will be in HIGH DEMAND, IMO. Teams like the Cards, the 49ers, Raiders, and Texans would all be better if the Edge became their HB.

The Texans are going to draft Reggie Bush, so they won't be taking Edge.

As for the rest, you might be right, but there's a helluva lot of history that shows that RBs go downhill VERY FAST starting at right around 30 years old.

So if you give Edge (currently 28 years old) a 5 year deal for big money, you are LIKELY to be screwing yourself unless you make sure the back end is voidable without killing your cap by bonus acceleration.

Guys like Walter Payton and even Emmitt Smith, who are very productive until their mid-30s, are very, very rare, and it doesn't make alot of sense to kill your cap situation by overpaying a RB whose nearly 30. That's why Seattle keeps franchising Alexander. That's why Edge hasn't been signed up long term.

Also, although it seems strange to say this -- talented RBs aren't really THAT rare. Trading Portis for Bailey was a brilliant move by the Rat for these two reasons. Portis is more easily replaced, and likely will have more longevity (assuming similar age).

BigChiefFan
01-23-2006, 10:06 AM
.


on the flipside-why would those teams want to pay big money for an ageing RB when they will fill those needs in the Draft?
Because he's a PROVEN NFL veteran, who still can get the job done. Ask the Cardinals how well their draftted HB, JJ Arrington did last year? The draft is a crap shoot.

Amnorix
01-23-2006, 10:07 AM
FWIW, Portis is 3 years younger than Bailey (I just looked it up).

MOhillbilly
01-23-2006, 10:14 AM
Because he's a PROVEN NFL veteran, who still can get the job done. Ask the Cardinals how well their draftted HB, JJ Arrington did last year? The draft is a crap shoot.

Crap shoot? all the starting RB in the nfl were drafted. Maybe its just Arizona?
Regardless he is going to want big money,which will turn teams off because the Taxans & Cards need more help at O-Line than RB.

BigChiefFan
01-23-2006, 10:18 AM
I never ONCE discussed contract numbers. You guys are assuming that EDGE will make huge money. You all are also assuming that he will get a long-term contract. All I've said is that there will be a demand for Edgerring James if he becomes an UFA. He still a great player and some team WILL take a chance on him.

MOhillbilly
01-23-2006, 10:20 AM
I never ONCE discussed contract numbers. You guys are assuming that EDGE will make huge money. You all are also assuming that he will get a long-term contract. All I've said is that there will be a demand for Edgerring James if he becomes an UFA. He still a great player and some team WILL take a chance on him.

and being a NFL STAR and since he is getting old James will want a long contract and big money.

BigChiefFan
01-23-2006, 10:24 AM
and being a NFL STAR and since he is getting old James will want a long contract and big money.
WANT and GET are two different things.

MOhillbilly
01-23-2006, 11:05 AM
WANT and GET are two different things.

then why not take a cut and stay in Indy?