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Published:February 28th, 2009 17:49 EST
Marvin Harrison, Indianapolis Colts

Contractual Disputes May Provoke Harrison to Leave Indianapolis

By Christopher HIllenbrand

On Sunday, Colts` President Bill Polian informed reporters at the NFL`s yearly scouting combine that the team was currently renegotiating Marvin Harrison`s contract down from the 13.4 million dollars Harrison may receive a year to save on the team`s salary cap. This figure makes Harrison the highest paid wide receiver in the NFL.

Marvin Harrison, Indianapolis Colts

 

The new cap rules, that`s not something we planned for, " Polian began. As a result, we have some issues with veterans, including Marvin. Hopefully, we`ll find a way to work through that. I don`t know if we will, but we hope to. "

 

Should Harrison and his agent decide against the pay decrease, the Colts only have one of two options: to keep him on at the same salary or cut him.

 

Someone intimate with the arbitration, who kept his identity confidential because the Colts haven`t officially released a statement, apprised sources that Harrison probably would not be interested in " accepting less as a base salary.

 

Harrison will be turning 37 later this year, making the decision all the more in favor of the Colts dumping his contract. Withstanding, he was on the inactive roster in all but five games last year, in a year where younger wideouts assumed the burden of receiving for Manning. Reggie Wayne, another WR for the team, was the most consistent receiver for the club in 2008 and has been elected to the Pro Bowl in the last 3 years. Indy`s 1st round draft pick in 2007, Anthony Gonzalez, has also demonstrated his ability to another go-to target for Peyton.

 

Bill Polian and Jim Caldwell, the Colts` WR coach, were asked whether the effects of Harrison`s age were becoming more pronounced out on the field. They categorically denied that his skills were waning.

 

Caldwell went on to say: what I saw is a guy who s as quick as he`s been, with the same hands and he has the ability he`s always had. "  

If Marvin and his salary are kept on, the team`s cumulative salary cap is foreseen to be 123 million dollars. 

 

And Harrison has been their franchise player since they moved to Indy from Baltimore. He currently is 2nd all-time in receptions with 1.102 behind Jerry Rice and possesses the records for most receiving yards in a single season and career. He has 8 Pro Bowls and has a 2007 Super Bowl ring among his accomplishments. Currently, Harrison stands 4th all-time in career receiving yards with 14,550 yards, and 5th all-time in touchdown catches with 128.

 

Marvin Harrison isn`t the only veteran who may be signing with another team this off-season. 3-time Pro Bowl center Jeff Saturday and punter Hunter Smith are likely to bail out of Indianapolis to test their potential in the lucrative free agent market. Along with Harrison and Manning, they are the longest-tenured players with the Indianapolis Colts` organization. As the Colts` star center, Saturday has started 138 games at his position and has the responsibility of deciding blocking calls on the offensive line.

 

Jeff Saturday explained to the media that he discussed the matter with his wife and they both agreed he should become a free agent. Free agents are eligible to begin signing with other teams as early as Friday.

 

I think I made it very clear that I wanted to stay in Indy, that`s where my wife and family wanted to stay, and I wanted to retire here. But I`m moving into free agency because my wife and I decided this is what is best for our family, though I`ve not completely ruled out playing for the Colts, " Saturday said to reporters.

 

Saturday was offered a new agreement abiding by the NFL`s salary cap guidelines and gratefully declined.

 

The bounty of extravagant salaries already garnered by some players has the Colts already approaching their salary ceiling. Recently, the Colts signed Kevin Hayden, their cornerback, to a new 5-year extension worth 43 million dollars. With the signing, there have been 10 players signed to contracts worth at least 19 million dollars by the Colts since 2004. Peyton Manning, Dwight Freeney, Bob Sanders, and Marvin Harrison are only 4 of that pedigree earning top wages for the team. It`s not that the club doesn`t have the funds to keep players anchored in Indiana; it`s just that they were cavalier in whom to dole the money out to. To assuage their tight budget, they`re actively pursuing to free up some salary space for the future. Indy fans might be disappointed to hear that their favorite veterans are playing in other uniforms but at the end of the day, it makes perfect business sense.

 

With his age and his recent injury, Harrison has become a top liability for the team. The 6-year contract he signed back in 2004 netting him 66 million dollars with 22 million in tentative bonuses now has come under close scrutiny. If Harrison doesn`t accept a new deferred contract, teams like the New York Giants would be glad to sign him considering that Plaxico Burress` future with the organization is still in limbo.

 

Concerning the salary cap and Harrison`s contract in particular, Bill Polian said, I don`t want to characterize the discussions. But we are impacted by the salary cap for the 1st time in 11 years. "