Reggie Wayne: Hardly a Second Option

Todd Taylor takes a look at Reggie Wayne's career and why the Colts won't let him test the waters as an unrestricted free agent during the offseason.

Like most players on the Indianapolis Colts, Reggie Wayne is not one to draw attention to himself.  Despite his undeniable talent and marked improvement, he has accepted his role as the number two receiver in Indianapolis.  Even as he approaches free agency, Wayne has kept quiet about the prospect of being the primary receiver elsewhere. 

Although labeled the number two receiver on the Colts' depth chart, Wayne is hardly that.  Since taking over that role for the Colts three seasons ago, Wayne has averaged 76 catches, 1,034 yards and 8 touchdowns.  These are statistics many number one receivers would be proud of.  In fact, Wayne had more receiving yards last season than 18 of the NFL's number one receivers. 

Wayne doesn't possess game-breaking speed and his size is somewhat average for today's NFL receiver at 6-foot 200 pounds.  On a team with Peyton Manning, Marvin Harrison, Edgerrin James and Dwight Freeney, headlines and cover stories are few and far between for Wayne.  But the intangibles that separate him from the rest of the wide receivers in the NFL are his reliable hands and precise route running. 

For the 2005 season, Protrade.com created a ranking system based on drop rates by NFL wide receivers.  Wayne ranked 6th in the NFL in actual drop rate (2.5%), while number one receivers Chad Johnson (12.8% drop rate) and Santana Moss (13.5% drop rate) ranked in the bottom ten.  Wayne also ranked 4th in adjusted drop rate (1.3%), which accounts for what types of routes the receiver runs.

Also a testament to his hands, Wayne doesn't lose any fumbles.  All right, he did lose one ... back in 2002.  Over his NFL career, Wayne averages one fumble lost (FL) per 304 catches.  Compare that to some other great receivers based on data from espn.com: 

Torry Holt:             1 FL per 88 receptions

Terrell Owens:       1 FL per 119 receptions

Rod Smith:             1 FL per 132 receptions

Randy Moss:          1 FL per 158 receptions

Marvin Harrison:   1 FL per   185 receptions

For a receiver on a dome team such as the Colts, playing outdoors can be a concern.  For Wayne, who played his college football in warm Miami, FL, playing outdoors has been one of his strengths.  The table below shows Wayne's production both home and away over the last two seasons combined:   

2004-05 Seasons

Receptions

Yards

Average

Touchdowns

Home

84

1,031

12.27

7

Away

76

1,234

16.24

10


Durability is another of Wayne's key attributes.  He hasn't missed a start since becoming the Colts' number two receiver in 2003.

One of the main reasons the Colts cannot afford to lose Wayne is due to their otherwise aging receiving core.  Marvin Harrison will turn 34 this year while number three receiver Brandon Stokley and number four receiver Troy Walters will both turn 30.  To add more complexity to the situation, Walters is an unrestricted free agent. 

Colts' president Bill Polian is on record as saying that Wayne "isn't going anywhere" this off-season.  The question becomes, how much will keeping him cost the Colts?  With Wayne seeking a big contract and the Colts owing Peyton Manning, Harrison and Corey Simon almost a combined $30 million in roster bonuses, cap money is tight. 

The most likely option allowing Wayne to remain a Colt is for the team to use the franchise tag on him.  If they don't tag him, the Colts would be unlikely to match offers for his services from many teams--such as Atlanta, Tennessee and Philadelphia--who are in need of a wide receiver.  Adding to this likelihood is the weakness of the free agent wide receiving class this off-season.  Wayne is arguably the best unrestricted free agent at his position with the rest of the field consisting of players such as David Givens, Antonio Bryant, Joe Jurevicius, Josh Reed and Koren Robinson.

With 13 unrestricted free agents--including key players such as Edgerrin James, Mike Vanderjagt, David Thornton and Raheem Brock--the decision to keep Wayne is a difficult one from a cap perspective.  However, with Harrison and Stokley getting older and a thin free agent wide-receiving class, letting Wayne go does not appear to be an option for Polian and the Colts as they enter the 2006 season.


Colts Blitz Top Stories