Moving on from the debacle on Sunday, I want to take a moment to consider the future of Joseph Addai.
Over the past season and a quarter, fan opinion of Addai has taken a dramatic 180. Once considered 'part of the problem' with the Colts' run game, it's now almost universally recognized that Addai is one of the most important players on the team. He does all the dirty work, runs hard behind a questionable line, and is a threat out of the backfield.
His contract is up at the end of this season, leaving all of us wondering what the Colts will do with him.
There are four components to this decision that must be considered:
1. Salary cap rules for the new CBA-If there is a cap next year, it will affect how much Addai could get on the open market. His stats aren't likely to be attractive so, that could help the Colts' odds of signing him for a reasonable price. At the right price, you'd love to have Addai back, but overpaying for a 28 year old running back is not a wise strategy. Polian has a history of parting with backs at this tipping point age, so unless Addai can be had for cheap, the Colts won't be bringing him back.
2. Franchise player rules for the new CBA-The Colts squeezed an extra year out of Edge James by franchising him for a season. The problem is that we don't know if the 'franchise tag' will even exist next year. Or, it's possible that each team will get multiple tags (as in 2010). The Colts could try and keep Addai around for a year using a franchise or transition player tag. The franchise tage means he'd get paid an average of the top 5 RB salaries in the league. That would be roughly $9 million. Addai makes $2.2 million now. That would be a lot of cash to shell out for one year of Addai. The transition tag is the average of the top 10 RBs, but that wouldn't bring the number down that much. I'm not sure this is much of an option.
3. Manning's contract negotiations-The Colts might not have a tag to use (or money to spend) based on what kind of deal Peyton scores and when he scores it. The team franchised Manning after the 2003 season in order to buy time to sign him to his current deal. If they do that again (and they said they would be willing to), then tagging Joe might not even be a consideration.
4. The development of Don Brown-We all like the glimpses we see from Brown, but there's no question we want to be seeing more from him than we have so far. Injuries have slowed his development as a blocker and runner. If Brown suddenly breaks out, there's no question the club can feel better about letting Addai walk.
So it's the proverbial rock and a hard place. You'd love to see Addai hang around for another five or six years like a much better version of Kevin Faulk, always able to block or slip out of the backfield and catch passes. However, you just can't justify paying big money for an 900 yard running back.
Addai is on pace for roughly 900 yards rushing and his typcial 300 yards receiving. Nine other backs hit similar numbers around age 27 and 28. They are:
- Joe Washington (1981-916/558)-last good year
- Herschel Walker (1990-770/315)-3 more similar seasons
- Darren Nelson (1986-793/593)-last good year
- Ernie Green (1966-750/445)-1 more good year
- Clem Daniels (1964-824/696)-3 more good years
- Roger Craig (1987-815/492)-2 more good years
- James Brooks (1985-929/576)-5 more good years
- Donny Anderson (1970-853/414)-2 more good seasons
- Walter Abercrombie (1986-877/395) last good year
Obviously, if you knew you were getting James Brooks, you'd sign Addai to a long term deal. Four of the nine only had one or no good years left. Two more had two decent seasons. Three of them (Brooks, Daniels and Walker), had at least three strong years left in them.
I want to see Addai back with Indy for years to come. I don't know if it will make sense financially, however.