The Colts would have a hard time re-signing him next spring because they also will have to deal with the contract situation of star wide receiver Marvin Harrison.
So, how about a trade to the Dolphins?
Say, for defensive end Adewale Ogunleye?
Obviously, the Dolphins would like to hang on to Ogunleye, but they might not have a choice but to part with him if they want to get a top-notch running back for the 2004 season.
Let's face it, the guys who currently are unemployed and available — Dorsey Levens, James Allen, Stacey Mack and James Stewart — are not in James' class.
And here's the other important factor to remember: The defense can still be good, even without Ogunleye. The offense cannot be good without a quality running back because the passing game still is a big question mark, until proven otherwise.
The trade makes sense from both ends: The Colts will have a hard time re-signing James and their defense could use another pass rusher.
The drawback is obvious from both ends, as well: the Dolphins lose the AFC's sack leader from last year and also take a chance because of James' knee injury, which has robbed him of some of his explosiveness. The Colts give up their top running back prior to a season they hope will end with a Super Bowl appearance.
The Minnesota Vikings also could be trade partners because they have two starting-caliber running backs in Michael Bennett and Onterrio Smith.
Vikings coach Mike Tice has said he would be willing to listen to offers, but the price probably won't be cheap.
OK, so how about Ogunleye for Smith and, say, a fourth-round pick?
From this end, we like either trade better than just signing a free agent running back. If that's the route the Dolphins choose, the choice here would be Mack, who is solid but not spectacular.