Just when we thought the Colts were done signing free agents, Jim Irsay ignites a firestorm of speculation by announcing on Saturday evening that the Colts were in serious negotiations with an as-yet unnamed team or agent to acquire an as-yet unnamed wide receiver.
A Recap of Isray’s Tweets
On his Twitter page, he tweeted, “ColtFans,we already past the cap cash wise/ we’re workin on a deal,1 we’ve been workin on for 5 days/ we’re very,very close 2 making it work.” He later tweeted, “Everyone stand buy,pour strong drink…do ur voodoo,Colts need the strength of it’s nation to get this wopper in the boat! DO U UNDERSTAND!?”
But as it would turn out, they might not have been as close to striking a deal as he thought. The following day he tweeted, “Colt Fans,I just give u an inside view,blow by blow…it’s not teasing or anything like that..ups n downs,getting close then stalling out…”
His last update on the subject came at 3:27 p.m. on Sunday, as he tweeted, “We r still in fight for WR n others…we’ve landed everyone we’ve targeted…my gut feeling— we’re not through..it’s hour to hour-EXCITING.”
Victor Cruz to Indy? Not So Fast.
With most prominent free agent wideouts, most notably Percy Harvin and Mike Wallace, having already been plucked from the market, the question is who’s left?
Speculation at first centered around the New York Giants’ star slot receiver Victor Cruz. This would have made the most sense versus Irsay’s comments, since landing Cruz would more or less fall into the “wopper” category.
But it didn’t take long for Irsay to dispel this notion. During a break in the NFL owners meeting in Phoenix, AZ, he informed the media, “It’s not Cruz, no.”
So if not Cruz, then who? Indianapolis, having spent a good portion of its $41 million in cap space, is no longer in a position to award a mega-contract to a super star wideout, at least that is how it appears based on the current roster. Here are a few names that have been floated.
Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Steelers
Some of Irsay’s comments could be construed in such a way as to to suggest the Colts are in talks with a restricted free agent. Were the Colts to land Sanders, the Steelers would have an opportunity to match the offer, or else let him go and receive a 3rd-round draft choice in April. But Pittsburgh may not be willing to let go so easily. They’ve already lost Mike Wallace when Miami signed him to a 5-year deal worth $60 million. To lose Sanders too would put them in dire need of quality receivers. But from the Colts’ perspective, signing a veteran receiver like Sanders might make sense, since he wouldn’t break the bank, and would cost only a 3rd-round draft pick. From a personnel standpoint, he fits nicely with what the Colts want to do, since he can be effective in the slot, and won’t hesitate to run across the middle. He tallied 44 receptions, 626 yards and 1 TD in 2012, and caught 64% percent of passes thrown his way. Earlier reports that he had signed with the Patriots proved premature. Sanders is still very much an option for SOME team.
Doug Baldwin, WR, Seahawks
The Indianapolis Star’s Mike Chappell suggested a Baldwin deal makes sense since he has experience working in Pep Hamilton’s offense. Together with Luck and Fleener, this would give the Colts 3 players who are comfortable working under Pep Hamilton. Plus, now that the Seahawks have acquired former Vikings receiver Percy Harvin they no longer need Baldwin for anything other than depth.
After a very solid 2011 season in which he had 51 receptions, 788 yards and 4 TDs, the 2012 season was somewhat of a regression, as he had just 29 receptions, 366yards and 3 TDs. Still he is an up-and-coming talent who plays well out of the slot. He is not the biggest guy at 5’10, 186 lbs., but he is not afraid to go over the middle.
Davone Bess, WR, Dolphins
In 5 years with the Dolphins Davone Bess totaled 327 receptions, 3,447 yards and 12 TDs. At 5’10, 195 lbs., he’s not exactly a big target, but neither is he too small. He is an agile player with reliable hands, and would be a decent fit with the Colts, although not at a “wopper” of a price.
Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals
The first thing that should be said of a Fitzgerald deal is that it is highly unlikely to happen. But we can dream. Without Larry Fitzgerald the Arizona Cardinals have no identity. To put it simply, Fitzgerald IS the team. And first-year head coach Bruce Arians will fight like hell to keep him. Arizona is already without a proven quarterback. Losing Fitzgerald would be devastating to its chances of making the playoffs, let alone winning the Super Bowl. But even if Arizona were willing to deal, it’s doubtful the Colts have the cash or cap space to make a deal happen. Fitzgerald is under an 8-year, $113 million, back-loaded contract that jumps to over $12 million in 2014, and 13 million a year thereafter, through 2018. Certainly, if a deal COULD get done, it would send ripples throughout the entire AFC. With any kind of offensive line, the Colts would be an offensive juggernaut, with Reggie Wayne lined up left, and Fitzgerald on the right. And let’s not forget tight ends Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener.