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Colts work to sign Freeney for long term

coltsgabjpg.bmpSummer school ended early for the Indianapolis Colts, and for a very good reason.  Head Coach Tony Dungy decided to cancel Thursday’s 14th and final voluntary organized team activity (OTA), well aware that the players might have a difficult time concentrating under a searing sun.  They received their Super Bowl rings in an emotional private ceremony the previous evening.  As Dungy told Mike Chappell of the Indianapolis Star on Thursday, “It was the right thing to do.  Practice would have been anticlimactic.”  The conclusion of summer school signals the beginning of an extended vacation for Dungy and his staff — they report back to the team complex July 23 — and more casual conditioning for the players in preparation for the start of training camp July 29.  The team’s offseason conditioning program runs through the third week of July.  Here are some very important issues you may want to follow (at least until training camp opens):

Dwight Freeney

Look for (and expect) the three-time Pro Bowl defensive end to become the highest-paid defensive player in league history.  Preliminary talks have begun between the team and Gary Wichard, Freeney’s agent.  The key date in all of this is July 15, the deadline for a long-term contract to be reached.  If talks fail, Freeney must play under the one-year, $9.43 million “franchise” tag for ’07. Should that happen, he figures to be a no-show throughout the preseason.  The absolute earliest Freeney would sign the one-year tender is probably the week before the start of the regular season.

As you, I and GM Bill Polian know, a long-term deal is in the best interest of both sides.  It will afford the Colts room under the salary cap and allow them to lock up one of the NFL’s most disruptive players (on the field) for the foreseeable future. It also would also give Freeney long-term security.  The problem could hinge on finding middle ground on guaranteed money. For perspective, consider New Orleans “franchised” defensive end Charles Grant, then signed him to a seven-year, $63 million contract that includes $20 million in guaranteed money.  Grant and Freeney were first-round draft picks in 2002. But in 79 regular-season games, Freeney has a club-record 561/2 sacks and 27 forced fumbles while Grant has 36 sacks and 15 forced fumbles in 80 games.  So as you can see, Freeney has had by far the better overall body of work over that period of time. 

Corey Simon

This, at least in my opinion, should be the easiest part of the Colts’ puzzle to solve.  Expect the veteran defensive tackle to get his walking papers, perhaps after a final grievance with the Colts is resolved involving $1.9 million in ’06 base salary. A sure sign that Simon has played his final game for the Colts?  He wasn’t invited to Wednesday night’s ring ceremony.  Nice to have known ya, Corey.

2007 Draft picks

There has been very little dialogue between the Colts and agents for their nine draft picks. But not to worry – the team traditionally waits until after July 4 to get the ball rolling, and usually gets everyone under wraps in a timely fashion.  Last summer, first-round pick Joseph Addai and five other draft picks were on hand for the first training camp practice.  So expect the same this season.

Colts fans, just remember that it is still very early and as a price of doing business, these things take some time to take place.  Again, I do expect Freeney to get signed to a long-term contract, a free agent RB will be either signed or one will be chosen in-house to complement Joseph Addai in the Colts’ running game, and hopefully the team will sign a FA defensive tackle relatively soon.  Regardless, exercise some patience – I am certain that you and I will be rewarded for our efforts.

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