Repeatedly this season, Colts president Bill Polian has said that Indianapolis will put the franchise tag on unrestricted free agent Reggie Wayne to keep him in Indianapolis.
And that makes sense. Wayne put up a career-high 83 catches and broke the 1,000-yard receiving mark for the second consecutive season. He actually nudged Marvin Harrison out of the team lead by one catch in total receptions this year, although he trailed him in both yardage and touchdowns.
But unless the Colts have a really good plan for replacing another unrestricted free agent -- Edgerrin James -- losing him could deal the Colts offense an even more serious blow than losing Wayne. And it's for exactly that reason that it wouldn't be unusual to find the Colts listening to offers for Wayne during the offseason after putting a franchise tag on him.
Pro Football Weekly noted this week that it's been a long time since there's been such a serious talent gap between the top wide receiver UFA and the rest of the pack. And teams like the 49ers, Eagles, and the Cowboys are desperate to upgrade their receiver situation. They noted that the Bills were the last team to take advantage of a similar situation, tagging Peerless Price and receiving the Falcons' number one pick for him. And then they turned around and used the money saved from not having to pay price and signed LBs Takeo Spikes and Jeff Posey and NT Sam Adams to bolster their defense instead.
If the Colts would play out the same scenario, it could provide them with the signing bonus money for a long-term contract for James instead. The Colts are also trying to restructure Dwight Freeney's contract, so that could provide some more relief.
That would give the Colts two first-round picks, allowing them to plug the hole created by Wayne's departure with a quality rookie, and then still having the opportunity to trade down with their actual draft pick at #30 to pick up an additional lower-round pick if they'd like.
Maybe Bill Polian is committed to sticking with Wayne and will let James walk. But if he puts the franchise tag on Wayne rather getting a contract signed, don't be surprised to see a team willing to surrender that pick -- and the Colts tempted to let them overpay for Wayne's services, freeing up some projected cap space as a result.
Wayne's Not Going Anywhere ... Right?
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