NFL free agency is about to begin March 10 and No. 87 is on the minds of many. The Colts will spend some on bringing in new free agents, but the question remains about one of the team’s leaders and a fan favorite.
Wayne’s body has showed its age in each of the last two seasons. He played hurt with one arm for much of last season. The year before that, he suffered a knee injury.
He has said he will not play for another team, which means the Colts could decide he should retire. But if Wayne were willing to play for the right price, he could continue to be a mentor to wide receivers T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief as well as rookie newcomer Duron Carter.
For sentimental reasons, fans obviously want to know one way or another, but because of Wayne’s allegiance to the Colts, don’t expect the timetables to apply to this situation. He can take as much time as he needs this offseason to get his body right — he had surgery to repair a torn triceps after last season.
As for the other Colts set to hit the free agent market, the team already re-signed quarterback Matt Hasselbeck as insurance for Andrew Luck. That leaves safety Sergio Brown, safety Mike Adams, defensive end Cory Redding, linebacker Andy Studebaker, offensive tackle/guard Joe Reitz, cornerback Darius Butler, running back Ahmad Bradshaw, wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, cornerback Josh Gordy and safety Colt Anderson as unrestricted free agents who could be re-signed.
Redding might decide to retire, but perhaps the Colts are giving him extra time like Wayne to decide if he wants to put his body through the grind one more time. He played three of his 12 seasons with the Colts and was a valuable vocal leader.
Brown and Adams make the most sense. Both played well at safety, especially after the Colts didn’t have LaRon Landry due to his four-game suspension for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs. Landry was released with two years left on his contract.
Because the Colts have other obvious needs, retaining one or both of these guys for the right price would allow the team to focus more on strengthening the defensive and offensive lines in free agency and the NFL Draft.
Butler was the nickel back, but it’s doubtful the Colts will want to pay a lot to keep him. He counted $3 million against the salary cap last season.
While he was the best running back last season, Bradshaw ended up on injured reserve after 10 games and was recently arrested for marijuana possession. That the oft-injured back also finished 2013 on IR after just three games could mean the Colts decide to move on in bolstering the backfield. That said, he wouldn’t cost much.
Studebaker is an excellent special-teams player who wouldn’t command a huge contract. He’s also played some with the base defense in a reserve role and is a high-character guy. Teams can’t have enough of these role players, so the Colts might keep him, too.
Reitz could agree to return to his hometown team at a decent price, if the Colts think he’s worth bringing back for the right dollar amount. He’s started at times and can play guard or tackle, so there’s some value there.
Beyond that, expect the Colts to look to the open market to shore up as many holes as possible. And it’s quite possible they won’t make decisions on some of these guys until they see how it plays out with free agents they are pursuing.
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.