Posted: Tuesday July 26, 2005 11:43AM; Updated: Wednesday July 27, 2005 2:02AM
Edgerrin James signed a one-year deal worth slightly more than $8 million in March.
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Setting The Record Straight
Last week's Open Mike by Michael Silver incorrectly stated that the Philadelphia Eagles asked Terrell Owens to sign an injury waiver before Super Bowl XXXIX. The column, which went on to say that the Eagles should be obligated to renegotiate Owens's contract, was flawed because it was based on that misinformation. We regret the error.
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With his dreadlocks, gold teeth and perpetually casual attire Edgerrin James would seem an unlikely candidate to compare himself to a certain recently imprisoned domestic-style maven. But there the Colts' star halfback was earlier this month, riding down Atlanta's Peachtree Ave. in the passenger seat of an SUV positioning himself as the would-be cover boy for the next issue of Martha Stewart Living.
James was talking about his contract situation for 2005 -- the team "franchised" the would-be free agent in February, committing more than $8 million of Indy's salary-cap allotment in the process -- and the impact it might have on the Colts' competitive fortunes. Had Indy lowered James' cap number by signing him to the long-term deal he desires, James reasoned, the Colts could have shored up a defense that ranked 29th in the NFL in 2004.
"Other teams went out and got some free agents, but we basically sat back and kept it status quo," James complained. "I guess there wasn't any cap room."
Then, James flashed his Ft. Knox smile and continued, "You know what? What's happening to me might be good. I might be getting the Martha Stewart treatment. On that stock thing she got the heads up before the whole thing blew."
I asked James to clarify, and he explained that the Colts -- like the entity in which Stewart had stock before she was warned to sell it -- might also be headed for a drastic decline. By now, he had Stewart on the brain. "It worked out for her," he said. "She got five months in jail, a slap on the wrist, and she's still getting paid. The way I look at it, I've got five months to serve, too."
Whether James is clairvoyant or merely intent on incurring his bosses' wrath -- or both -- remains to be seen. But no matter what happens in Indy in 2005 and beyond, his life in a Colts uniform will no longer be all milk and cookies. At least in the short term, James' dreams have been dashed by a system which has become increasingly less fruitful for productive veteran running backs, and now he seems to regard himself as little more than a mercenary -- albeit one of the more highly compensated mercenaries the world has witnessed.
James isn't asking you to pity his plight, or even to relate to it. He's simply trying to do business in an environment that seems stacked against him. Was it merely a coincidence that the market collapsed on All-Pros James and Seahawks halfback Shaun Alexander this past offseason (and, until his recent trade from Buffalo to Tennessee, former Pro-Bowl runner Travis Henry as well)? Or are veteran running backs now locked in a Catch 22: Any runner who demonstrates his enduring productivity by the end of his rookie contract will then be deemed to have too much tread on him to be worth signing to another long-term deal?