While the Colts surely would have liked to keep Morris and McFarland, cap salary cap considerations forced the team's hand Wednesday. Both players also reportedly failed physicals Wednesday.
The Colts were around $9 million over the cap Wednesday, and teams need to be at or under the $116 million mark before the league year ends and free agency starts at midnight Friday.
Cutting McFarland alone saved the team $6.85 million and doesn't come as a surprise, considering the veteran defensive tackle didn't play a down for the Colts in 2007 after a knee injury in the preseason.
McFarland began his career with Tony Dungy in Tampa as the 15th overall pick in the 1999 NFL Draft. He came to the Colts in a trade in 2006, with the team giving up a second-round pick in the 2007 NFL Draft to acquire him.
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Although McFarland only played in nine games total for the Colts, he was a valuable member of the defensive line rotation when healthy and a respected voice in the locker room. He also had two sacks during the team's playoff run and help solidify the much-maligned defense during that time.
The man nicknamed "Booger" is clearly on the downside of his career and injuries have caught up to him in the last couple of years. He'll likely have to take a large cut in pay if he wants to line up in the NFL again for another team.
Morris has spent his entire career with the Colts after the team selected him with its first-round choice in 2000.
The team drafted him to play middle linebacker and he had three seasons of 100-plus tackles from 2001-03, and had 94 tackles in 2004. However, he lost his starting job in 2005, before finding his niche at strong-side linebacker late in the 2006 season.
Morris started all four of the Colts playoff games at strong-side linebacker, and was regarded as another reason behind the team's dramatic defensive turnaround on its way to the Super Bowl XLI championship.
However, just when the Morris found a role he could flourish in, he also suffered a knee injury after two games this season and was placed on injured reserve with McFarland.
Morris only saves the Colts around $1.2 million against the cap, so while these cuts put the Colts near where the number they need to be at by Friday, there's still work to be done — at least a million dollars' worth.
Restructuring deals with veteran players should make up any difference the team still needs to get under. Jeff Saturday seems like a likely candidate for this, as the Pro Bowl center is set to make $5.2 million in 2008. If the team can sign him to a low salary with a high signing bonus, then Saturday's contract could be the difference.
However, if the Colts can't get a deal done with Saturday or another vet, more cuts could be possible in the next 24 hours. The player whose contract is most likely next on the chopping block, if necessary, is right tackle Ryan Diem, .
The Colts have a good, young nucleus at both defensive line and linebacker, with Ed Johnson, Darrell Reid, Quinn Pitcock and Keyunta Dawson anchoring the defensive line and Freddy Keiaho and Tyjuan Hagler manning the outside linebacker positions.
However, Morris was also a middle linebacker, and the team also cut ties with backup Brandon Archer this offseason. That leaves the team a bit thin at linebacker — the team does have Clint Session, Victor Worsley and Ramon Guzman under contract, but could also lose unrestricted free agent Rocky Boiman as well.
Bill Polian has repeatedly said that the Colts won't be a player in the free agent market, but don't be surprised to see the team grab players at both DT and LB when the NFL Draft rolls around in April.