The most reasonable explanation: With free agency beginning Tuesday, this gives the 14-year star the option of pursuing a deal with another NFL team.
Wayne, 36, repeatedly said last season that he would not play for another team. But he’s had surgery on his torn left triceps and should he change his mind, he has the freedom to explore.
That’s why the Colts didn’t announce a retirement press conference.
Some might think it a harsh way to say farewell to one of the team’s greatest leaders and on-field performers, but even Wayne understands the NFL is a business, first and foremost. And while the team made its decision to move on, there had to be some dialogue between Wayne and the Colts.
Wayne might eventually decide to retire anyway. But if his phone rings, and his body heals up and the competitive juices start flowing in the next few months, don’t be surprised if he decides to play again.
If the Colts wouldn’t have made this announcement, the question would be asked continually throughout the offseason. It was already being posed during the recent NFL Scouting Combine.
The Colts will be spending money in free agency to bolster the roster, and the longer Wayne’s situation lingered, the more obvious it would become that the team had not allocated money to bring him back.
Wayne finished the last two seasons with serious injuries. He played with one healthy arm and was a shell of his former self after suffering the triceps injury last season. His 2013 ended with a torn anterior cruciate ligament injury in the seventh game.
He cost $6.1 million toward the salary cap in his final season and was about to become a free agent. While the cost to keep him would have been far less, based on his diminished production the past two seasons, the Colts decided it was time to move on, clear and simple.
However emotional the decision, the business-side of football led the Colts to believe it was time. Until Wayne announces he is retiring, the door will be open for him to continue his career with another team.
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.