Colts Stay Out of Free Agent Frenzy

As expected, the Indianapolis Colts have opted not to get involved in the bidding wars that are usually associated with the veteran free agent market.

The rule in recent years has been to value your own free agents more highly and do whatever is economically feasible to get them re-signed. Colts officials readily admit that it's not always possible to keep everybody that you may want to.

Indianapolis has been able to keep cornerback Kelvin Hayden and center Jeff Saturday, both unrestricted free agents, on the roster. The Colts have lost, however, wide receiver Marvin Harrison, who requested and was granted his release.

Harrison's loss figures to be addressed in the upcoming draft, especially since there appears to be a deep well of talent available at the position this year.

Darrell Reid is the first of the Colts' free agents to sign with another team
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Team president Bill Polian said this year's draft crop was "very deep and very exciting," and that there were some "amazing times" at the recent NFL Scouting Combine.

Even if Harrison had decided to return for a 14th season, the Colts were still thinking strongly about taking a wide receiver early in the draft this time around.

"Marvin's not going to play forever," Polian said in January. "We've got to be thinking about what's the future at that critical position."

Also gone is defensive tackle Darrell Reid, an unrestricted free agent who has since signed with the Denver Broncos. Reid has been known as one of the league's better special teams performers, although he may get a chance to play as an outside linebacker in Denver.

Not expected back are linebackers Freddy Keiaho and Tyjuan Hagler along with punter Hunter Smith. Keiaho is a restricted free agent who was not offered a one-year tender. Hagler and Smith, both unrestricted free agents, have not been offered contracts.

Running back Dominic Rhodes, another unrestricted free agent, could be back but will test the market and see what he might be able to come up with.

"Historically, what we've been able to do, regardless of what position we're dealing with, there have been young people that have been able to step up," head coach Jim Caldwell said.

Indianapolis has re-signed defensive tackle Daniel Muir, an exclusive rights free agent, and has offered tenders to running back Lance Ball, linebacker Buster Davis and offensive guard/tackle Daniel Federkeil. Ball, Davis and Federkeil are exclusive rights free agents.

LOOKING AHEAD: The Colts figure to address any needs that they may have through the draft. That's been their game plan in past offseasons and shouldn't change much this year as well.

While Indianapolis officials routinely stay out of the big-money free agency market, they are not above waiting out the process and seeing who may be available at a discounted price once the dust settles around the league.

The draft, however, is the primary objective for the Colts. Team president Bill Polian firmly believes that building the team with draft picks and undrafted free agents has worked out well in Indianapolis and he isn't about to change.

SATURDAY'S SWITCH: When it comes to the art of negotiation, especially in professional sports, one general rule of thumb is to never completely accept any "take it or leave it" stance made by a player or his representative.

Such was the case with Indianapolis Colts center Jeff Saturday. Saturday's agent — Ralph Cindrich — had told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that his client was champing at the bit to play offensive guard for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Colts made Saturday and Hayden their top free-agent priorities
Chris Graythen/Getty

Yet hours before the Pro Bowl offensive lineman was due to become an unrestricted free agent, Cindrich and the Colts managed to come to an agreement on a three-year deal.

It had appeared that Saturday would be leaving the Colts. Talks between team officials and the 10-year veteran had come to an impasse. Indianapolis owner Jim Irsay, though, met with Saturday and that may have helped re-start the process.

That, and the decision by the league to increase the salary cap. It was expected to be in the $123 million range, but was bumped to $127 million.

"Oh, man, I am pumped," Saturday said recently. "This is where I wanted to be all along. I always wanted to be a Colt. I didn't want to go anywhere else."

Saturday will now remain the anchor of one of the league's most effective offensive lines. He has started 154 games, including the playoffs, since joining the team as an unheralded free agent in 1999.

"It was a surprise to everybody (the salary cap) was going to be that much higher," he said. "That gave (the Colts) a lot more room to work with and allowed us to get this thing done. I was fully prepared — my family was — to go to free agency."

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