Thursday, February 23, 2006

Colts WR Reggie Wayne Signs New Contract - RB Edgerin James' Future with Team in Doubt

Colts re-sign Wayne but probably won't keep James

By Mike Chappell, The Indianapolis Star

INDIANAPOLIS -- Reggie Wayne won't be designated the Indianapolis Colts' "franchise player," but his value to the franchise has been confirmed with a lucrative six-year contract. However, it's doubtful that development increases the possibility of running back Edgerrin James returning for the 2006 season.

In line to be slapped with the franchise tag before Thursday's deadline, Wayne agreed on Wednesday to a six-year deal, according to his agent, David Dunn. Dunn would not disclose financial parameters of the contract, but it's believed to be worth approximately $40 million with bonuses of nearly $13.5 million.

Team president Bill Polian could not be reached for comment.

The contract ties Wayne to the Colts through the 2011 season and keeps intact an elite receiving corps that includes seven-time Pro Bowl selection Marvin Harrison and Brandon Stokley.

It also keeps the franchise designation available to the Colts for one of their other players who will become an unrestricted free agent on March 3. The tag must be used by 4 p.m. ET Thursday.

However, there's a strong possibility the team will not use the tag because of the steep financial commitment required to place it on linebacker David Thornton ($7.169 million) or defensive end Raheem Brock ($8.332 million).

And the Colts almost certainly will not use the tag on James as they did following last season.

Polian reiterated last week that it would be virtually impossible from a financial standpoint to use the tag once again on James. The cost of a one-year contract for James in 2006 would be nearly $11 million, which is a 20% increase over his '05 salary cap number ($9.081 million).

Polian described the $11 million franchise number for James as "untenable."

To retain both James and Wayne, he added, would require significant changes in the current roster. That probably would entail "drawing a line through" the names of several players, cutting them to make room for Wayne and James under the projected salary cap of roughly $95 million.

"And I don't know if you can draw enough lines, even if you wanted to," Polian said. "And you may not want to because it would weaken the team so much in other capacities."

Wayne was one of 13 Colts eligible for unrestricted free agency, but there never was a possibility of him hitting the open market. When asked during the '05 season about Wayne's future with the Colts, Polian replied, "Reggie Wayne isn't going anywhere."

The team's 2001 first-round draft pick has elevated his game every season. Wayne, 27, led the Colts with a career-high 83 receptions in '05, ending Harrison's six-year run as their leading receiver.

"Reggie's thrilled to stay with the Colts," Dunn said. "He could not respect the organization or Bill Polian or (coach) Tony Dungy any more than he does. And he has the maturity to understand the importance of winning."

In five seasons, Wayne has registered 304 receptions for 4,164 yards and 28 touchdowns. He topped the 1,000-yard mark in 2004 and 2005 when he established himself as one of Peyton Manning's top targets. He caught a then-career-high 77 passes for 1,210 yards and 12 TDs in 2004 when he became part of the NFL's first receiving trio to top 1,000 yards and 10 TDs. He followed that with last year's 83-catch, 1,055-yard season as his role continued to expand.

The move makes Wayne one of the NFL's highest-paid receivers. But Wayne wanted more than money out of his contract.

"He thinks in terms of enjoying the situation with the team and the offense he's familiar with," Dunn told The Associated Press. "And having Peyton (Manning) throwing you the ball and Coach Dungy doesn't hurt. He thinks it's a good situation."

While Wayne could have left the Colts for another team, where he could have avoided being overshadowed by Harrison, the Colts' career receiving leader, he opted to stay with a team that has won three straight AFC South titles and been to one conference title game.

"Over the last month, I became acutely aware of how much he wanted to win," Dunn said.

Wayne's signing means the Colts will keep their passing attack intact long-term.

Harrison signed a six-year, $66 million deal in December 2004. Manning, a two-time NFL MVP, signed a seven-year, $98 million deal in March 2004. The Colts' No. 3 receiver, Stokley, agreed to a lucrative five-year deal late in the 2004 season.

The Associated Press contributed to this report