Here's a list of unrestricted free agents (UFAs) for the Colts this offseason:
Reggie Wayne- WR
Edgerrin James- RB
David Thornton- OLB
Mike Vanderjagt- K
Larry Tripplett- DT
Joseph Jefferson- FS/CB
Raheem Brock- DE
Rocky Calmus- MLB/OLB
Dominic Rhodes- RB
Troy Walters- WR
Rob Morris- MLB
Much has been written of Edgerrin feeling unappreciated, and Colts President Bill Polian has stated time and time again that the Colts are making Reggie Wayne their number one off-season target to re-sign. Polian has even said he'd use the franchise tag on Wayne if a deal isn't reached by the time free agency begins.
Despite this, and despite the fact that Polian has made extending Dwight Freeney a priority as well, I believe Edgerrin James will remain in a Colt uniform next year.
More on the flip...
There's a reason Bill Polian has won the NFL Executive of the Year five times. He's not a stupid man. He drafted Peyton Manning when many said the whiny, immature Ryan Lief was better. He drafted Edgerrin James when pothead Ricky Williams was considered the next Emmitt Smith coming out of college. He drafted Dwight Freeney, an undersized DE many thought would struggle against big time tackles in this league. He snatched up Corey Simon moments after Philadelphia lost its mind and essentially cut their best defensive line player after training camp last season.
Bill Polian is not a stupid man.
It's because of this that I believe that Polian will not let one of the best running backs in the league simply walk away. Polian knows the free agent market. He knows teams typically overpay for free agents that, oftentimes, never justify their salaries with play on the field. Edgerrin James is 27 years old. He's had major surgery on his knee, and though he's battled back from that and become a solid, productive back, teams are NOT going to give him a big pay check this offseason.
He was allowed to seek a trade during last year's offseason, and got zero response. Teams just aren't willing to fork over long term, guaranteed money (i.e. big signing bonus money) for a back like Edge.
Look at Shawn Alexander. He's in the same boat with Edge. He's the MVP of the friggin' league playing on a one-year deal. Meanwhile, complete free agent busts like Duane Starks are making millions over a set period. What's the difference between Starks and James? Starks is an often injured, useless CORNERBACK, while James is a running back four years removed from knee surgery. Teams, for whatever reason, are not willing to show RBs the money.
And while Alexander will likely re-sign with the Seahawks, what team is going to fork over big bonus money to Edge? The Panthers? The Raiders? The Jaguars?
Bill Polian knows this. He knows Edge is going to hit free agency had sit there... and sit there... and sit there until a team finally offers him something. Then, other teams will ante up. This waiting period gives Polian time to re-sign Wayne and extend Freeney.
Signing Edge to a cap friendly deal with good bonus money is a strong possibility in Indy. The Colts cap situation is excellent. Many of their best players (Sanders, June, Mathis, Clark, Brackett) make low, managable salaries. Even Manning, with his $100 million dollar, ten year deal is very cap friendly; more cap friendly than Brady (who gets less money over fewer years).
But all these financial details aside, Edgerrin James will not leave Indy because Bill Polian won't let him. He knows Edge is great. He knows what Edge means to the organization, the lockerroom, and the offense.
Bill Polian is not a stupid man.