Work in Sports
Colts' Dilger likely franchise player
Posted: Sunday February 06, 2000 03:42 PM
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Tight end Ken Dilger, the most experienced starter on offense for AFC East champion Indianapolis, will likely be designated a franchise player by the team this week.
Dilger is eligible for unrestricted free agency. His agent, Mark Bartelstein, has had discussions with club president Bill Polian regarding a long-term contract. However, Polian said the team probably would designate Dilger its "franchise player" prior to the Thursday deadline.
Polian told The Indianapolis Star the Colts are willing to make Dilger one of the highest-paid tight ends in the league. Dilger earned about $1.1 million last year, his fifth season with the Colts after they selected him in the second round of the 1995 draft.
However, Kyle Brady raised the market for a tight end last year when the 1995 first-round draft pick left the New York Jets and signed a five-year, $14.4 million contract that included a $4 million signing bonus with Jacksonville.
Dilger, an Indiana native, has said he wants to stay with the Colts and would prefer not to be designated a franchise player.
"We're nowhere and I don't anticipate that we will be," Polian told the newspaper. "My anticipation is we'll have to 'franchise' him."
As a franchise player, Dilger would be tendered a one-year contract at a salary average of the top five tight ends in the league, which would be around $2.4 million.
Dilger was a crucial part of the offense as the Colts compiled a 13-3 record, the team's best since it moved from Baltimore in 1984.
The free-agent signing period begins Friday and Dilger would be free to sign with another team despite having the franchise tag. If he signs with another team, Indianapolis would have the option to match. If the Colts choose not to match the offer, they would receive two first-round draft picks as compensation from Dilger's new team.
Another key member of the offensive unit the Colts want to re-sign is tackle Adam Meadows, who will become a restricted free agent. A team can retain the right to match any offer received on the open market by a restricted free agent if it tenders him a one-year contract. The size of the tender determines the type of compensation the player's original team would receive from his new team.
If the Colts would sign Meadows to the highest tender, they would receive first- and third-round draft pick compensation if they chose not to match. Don Henderson, Meadows' agent, was optimistic the two sides will be able to reach an agreement.
"We've had discussions and they've told us we're a priority," he said. "Adam wants to stay in Indianapolis and the best way to do that is to get something done long-term. They seem to want to get something done."
The Colts will have eight unrestricted free agents, five restricted free agents and an "exclusive-rights" free agent -- placekicker Mike Vanderjagt. He will remain exclusive property of the Colts if he is tendered one-year offers by Thursday.
Polian dug deeply into free agency last year, but is not expected to have a lot of money to spend for top-line free agents this year.
The club president has already made moves to have the team under the league's projected salary cap of $62 million, by restructuring the contracts of cornerbacks Tyrone Poole ($5.488 million) and Jeff Burris ($4.3 million). Details of Burris' cap relief were not available, but the newspaper reported Polian freed up $2.7 million in 2000 by re-working Poole's contract.
Other Colts who will be unrestricted free agents are tight end Bradford Banta, defensive lineman Shane Bonham, defensive back Thomas Randolph, linebacker Jeff Brady, running back Keith Elias, fullback Scott Greene and defensive back Eric Smedley.