Either this is a huge story with serious implications for the Colts and the NFL Draft, or it is just another silly reporter blowing a lot of hot air in the hopes that stupid bloggers like me pick it up and run with it.
On Friday, local San Diego radio host and columnist Lee 'Hacksaw' Hamilton offered up a pretty big topic of conversation for the listeners of his XX1090 radio show "Sportswatch." According to Hacksaw's sources, Bill Polian and the Colts are actively pursuing Chargers restricted free agent left tackle Marcus McNeill.
I don't have an article link to this story. You can listen to Hacksaw talk about it here. He mentions it in the first 10 minutes of his radio show.
McNeill was tendered by the team as a restricted free agent. Any club wishing to sign McNeill to an offer sheet that is not matched by the Chargers would need to surrender a 1st and 3rd round pick to San Diego. Hacksaw's sources tell him that an offer sheet for McNeill would need to be in the neighborhood of 5 years, $35 million with $12-15 million in bonus money upfront. If the Colts sign McNeill to an offer sheet like this, the Chargers would have 7 days to match it. If they don't, McNeill is a Colt, the Chargers get Indy's 1st and 3rd round picks in the 2010 NFL Draft, and Tony Ugoh officially goes down as one of the all-time biggest draft busts in Bill Polian's career.
Now, some in San Diego warn that people like Hacksaw are blowhards looking for attention. Rarely do his "sources" hold up, and it is possible that Hacksaw is only mentioning this scenario because PFT's Mike Florio wrote an article for Sporting News suggesting that McNiell to the Colts is an off-season move that should happen.
However, after listening to Hacksaw's radio show, I do not get the sense that he is floating this out there because of something Mike Florio wrote. He files the rumor in with the other hard news that involves the Chargers, such as and signing his tender. This rumor may have legs, and if it does it would be one of the biggest OMFG! moments in Bill Polian's career as President of the Colts. slamming Norv Turner
Hacksaw makes some pretty interesting points as to why this deal is churning:
- The Chargers are clearly dragging their feet in re-signing McNeill. They have, roughly, $30 million in freed money (in an uncapped year), but they are being cheap heading into 2010. Management and ownership are hoping players like McNeill simply sign their tenders, play for one year, and next year (if a new collective bargaining agreement is reached) the Chargers would work to extend McNeill long term.
- Bill Polian and Chargers GM A.J. Smith go way back. Both were part of what Hacksaw refers to as the "Buffalo Mafia." Smith comes from the Polian tree of executives, along with the late-John Butler who brought Smith to San Diego in the late-1990s.
- The Colts have cleared $10 million in veteran contracts and are looking to totally overhaul their offensive line.
- Quite simply, a player like McNeill will not be there at the 31st pick in the 2010 Draft. McNeill is considered by some to be one of the best left tackles in all of football. Maybe he's not Joe Thomas or Bryant McKinnie, but he is a serious upgrade over Charlie Johnson and Tony Ugoh. Surrendering a 1st and a 3rd for an impact player like McNeill is a win for the Colts.
Obviously, from my vantage point, if this story is real the Colts should aggressively work to sign McNeill to an offer sheet. There is no salary cap, which means I don't care about budgets and salary ceilings and all that crap. No cap means that, from a fan's point of view, if you are not doing anything and everything to sign the best players to my team, why should I spend higher prices on tickets?
McNeill is an impact player at the one of the most important positions on any football team: Left tackle. There is no guarantee that someone like Charles Brown or Bruce Campbell will be available at pick #31, and, if they are available, there is even less of a chance they will be 1/10th as good in the future as McNeill is right now.
So, if this deal is viable, the Colts should absolutely go for it!
The other thing to factor in here is that signing McNeill weakens a rival team. The Chargers are a passing-oriented team and quarterback Philip Rivers cannot run. Take McNeill off that roster and you hurt the Chargers offense. It is literally that simple.
If the Chargers do match the offer the Colts give McNeill, then fine. For the Colts, it's as if they never pursued the deal. They keep their picks and move forward enhancing a team that won the AFC Championship. Meanwhile, the Chargers lock up a player they should have already locked up a long time ago. How Smith could let a cornerstone player like McNeill go into an uncapped year as a restricted free agent beats me. Sounds like owner Dean Spanos is getting cheap, which suits me fine.
The deal sounds fantasitcal because when have you ever seen or heard of a rumor like this associated with Bill Polian? If this happens, it trumps the Corey Simon signing. It would go right up there with the Booger McFarland trade as one of those HOLY FLYING DOG TURDS, BATMAN! moments that comes along once in a blue moon for Polian. It would also send a VERY clear signal that management thinks the o-line from last year was crap. McNeill is 6'7, 336 pounds. Getting him, along with jettisoning Ryan Lilja (290 pounds) and signing Adam Terry (335 pounds) and Andy Alleman (304 pounds), would spell the end of Indy's trend of bringing in smaller, quicker lineman.
McNeill is also only 26-years-old, and signing him to a 5-year-deal would lock up the left tackle spot for the duration of Peyton Manning's career. So, yeah, if this deal is really something working in the background, I am all for Bill Polian pulling the trigger. This would be a major story if it happened, and it would significantly upgrade an area of weakness for the AFC Champs.