Stew Blake did our recap of Jim Irsay's insanity hitting the Twitterverse late last night, and the popular speculation is that the Colts are trying to work out a deal to pry wide receiver Victor Cruz from the Giants. Cruz is tendered at the highest level a player can be placed as a restricted free agent. To get him, the Colts would need to sign him to an offer sheet that would, in all likelihood, pay him him $10-$12 million a year. They'd also have to send their No. 24 overall pick to New York.
It's debatable whether or not Cruz is worth that type of compensation. It's unlikely the Colts would be able to pay Cruz anywhere near $10 mill a season seeing as though they've spent much of their estimated $41 mill in cap space so far this offseason. In fact, Irsay even admitted on Twitter that:
ColtFans,we already past the cap cash wise/ we're workin on a deal,1 we've been workin on for 5 days/ we're very,very close 2 making it work— Jim Irsay (@JimIrsay) March 17, 2013
Is Cruz worth a first round pick at No. 24? Hell YEAH! It's the money that makes this deal unlikely. Also, Cruz is represented by CAA, the mega-agency that reps athletes and movie stars alike. Also represented by CAA are Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen of ESPN. If Cruz and the Colts were talking, Schefter and Mort would know, and they would be tweeting about it.
So, realistically, I don't think Cruz is an option. But, let's talk about options that do make a bit more sense. Keep in mind, this is all speculation. No one, and I mean NO ONE, outside of Irsay, G.M. Ryan Grigson, and the other team or player they are negotiating with knows what is going on. If others know, they aren't talking.
Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Steelers
If the Colts are looking to trade for player or sign a restricted free agent - and Irsay's tweets suggest a deal of that nature - Sanders makes more sense from both a money standpoint and draft pick compensation. Sanders is tendered at the level which would require sending Pittsburgh a third round pick. He's a good receiver who works very well out of the slot, and he's not afraid to run routes over the middle. He fits the Colts offense, and 2012 was his most productive season of his pro career. He caught 44 receptions, 626 yards, 1 TD, and averaged 14.2 yards-per-catch.
Pro Football Focus listed him as a player to watch this offseason, noting:
Sanders had 69 targets in 2012, and it’s not unreasonable to think that as he (hopefully) improves, that number could turn into 95 or so as the 2nd or 3rd receiving option on his team. His 64% catch rate isn’t unsustainable given that many of his snaps came in the slot. While he won’t be a big touchdown guy, he’s certainly worth monitoring for PPR folks, as last year’s numbers extrapolated to 95 targets would have equated to roughly 60 catches and 865 yards on the conservative side.
There have been conflicting reports regarding Sanders signing an offer sheet with the Patriots. As of right now, the credible reports say he has not signed, but he did visit New England. Because of the Pats visit and the RFA tender, it would make sense that the deal would be five days in the making, as Irsay stated on Twitter.
Doug Baldwin, WR, Seahawks
Mike Chappell of the Indianapolis Star has floated Baldwin's name on Twitter, but he's done so not because he has insider info. Baldwin makes sense because he's now expendable in Seattle after the Seahawks traded for Vikings receiver Percy Harvin. Baldwin also has experience working in Pep Hamilton's offense because, like Andrew Luck and Coby Fleener, Baldwin attended Stanford University.
2012 was a set back for Baldwin compared to his rookie year in 2011. He caught 29 balls for 366 yards and 3 TDs. At 5'10, 186 lbs, he's best utilized as a slot receiver, which, based on the people that are getting batted around, is what the Colts are looking for.
Davone Bess, WR, Dolphins
This guy is here based on this tweet from Irsay:
Everyone stand buy,pour strong drink...do ur voodoo,Colts need the strength of it's nation to get this wopper in the boat! DO U UNDERSTAND!?— Jim Irsay (@JimIrsay) March 17, 2013
Get it? Wopper? In a boat? A fish? A Dolphin? Get it? Even though Dolphins aren't fish. They're mammals. Totally makes sense, right?
If all this tweeting and speculation ends up netting the Colts a guy like Bess, I'll flip a table.
Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals
OK, I'll get this off my chest and just simply say that Bruce Arians and the Cardinals are not trading Larry Fitzgerald. They just aren't. He's literally THE perfect wide receiver for Arians' offense, and trading him to Indianapolis is almost insulting to suggest.
However, IF Fitz is the player Irsay and Grigson are targeting, they must absorb his 8-year, $113 million dollar contract. He's reportedly due only $5 million in 2013, but in 2014 his salary jumps to over $12 mill. From 2014 to the end of his contract (2018), he is averaging $13 mill a season because his contract is ridiculously back-loaded.
So, from a money standpoint and from just a "let's think about this realistically" standpoint, Fitzgerald isn't an option.
Don't mistake my realism for me saying that I don't want the Colts to make a move for Fitz. He is, in my humble opinion, the greatest receiver of his generation. He's 29-years-old, and he's looking to win a ring. Can he in Arizona? In the NFC West? Doubtful. His chances are better in the AFC, and there isn't a corner duo in the conference who can handle a combo of Reggie Wayne, Larry Fitzgerald, and T.Y. Hilton. That's just stupid-good, but it likely is too stupid-good to be true.
It's important to note that Irsay has over-hyped the Colts signing marginally talented players this past week. So, he might be calling this deal a "wopper," but don't assume this wideout they are looking to reel in will be a star. Logically, Mike Chappell's Doug Baldwin guess makes sense, but I'll go with Emmanuel Sanders just to be different.
Regardless if it's Baldwin or Sanders, it's good to know the Colts front office is still trying to get this flawed roster better. I was critical of them for not addressing enough key needs in free agency, and for over-paying marginal talent like Erik Walden. However, if they are able to hook in Baldwin or Sanders, that's the big upgrade.
If the manage to swing a deal for Cruz or Fitzgerald... wow. A deal on that level would instantly change the landscape of the AFC.