By Tom James
INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis Colts team president Bill Polian said Tuesday evening that he hoped to have all nine of the team’s draft picks signed by the time training camp began on Sunday. It would appear that he’s well on his way to making that happen.
According to multiple NFL sources, former Ohio State wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez is close to finalizing a contract with Indianapolis. Preliminary reports are that Gonzalez, the Colts’ first-round draft pick and the 32nd player selected overall this year, agreed in principle to a five-year deal Wednesday. While terms were not disclosed, he is expected to sign by the end of the week.
Efforts to contact Gonzalez’s Chicago-based agent, Mike McCartney, to confirm that an agreement had been reached were not successful. Per team policy, Colts officials do not discuss personnel matters until all details of a contract are worked out.
Wide receiver Roy Hall (fifth round), who was a college teammate of Gonzalez, came to terms Tuesday on a four-year deal. Former Texas Tech defensive end Keyunta Dawson (seventh round) also agreed to a four-year contract on Monday. Monetary terms for Dawson was not immediately available, although Hall is due to make the league minimum salary.
Remaining unsigned are second-rounder Tony Ugoh (offensive tackle), third-rounders Daymeion Hughes (cornerback) and Quinn Pitcock (defensive tackle), fourth-rounders Brannon Condren (safety) and Clint Session (linebacker) and fifth-rounder Michael Coe (cornerback).
“We’re making progress. I don’t see any bumps in the road, let me put it that way,” Polian said Tuesday. “But we’re not rushing. We’ve got until Sunday to get it done. We usually use all our time.”
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• Glenn’s replacement on roster — Despite the unexpected loss of veteran offensive tackle Tarik Glenn to retirement, the Colts won’t be shopping the league’s waiver wire anytime soon.
Second-year offensive tackle Charlie Johnson and Ugoh will most likely be the initial candidates, but Polian seems confident that a replacement for Glenn will eventually emerge from the current roster.
“We have players who are going to have to step in. That’s what happens in the NFL. When the unknown comes up and you have to deal with it. And we will. We’ve got a lot of good players on the offensive line. And one of the things we pride ourselves on is that virtually any player on the offensive line can play any position,” he said.
“So [offensive line coach] Howard [Mudd] will sit down at training camp and he’ll mix and match and work different combinations. And a couple of days before we play New Orleans [in the 2007 season-opener], I’m sure he’ll let us know what combination he thinks is best. And then we’ll let you know. But right now it’s a question of working through all of the various permutations and we’ll come out with the best five [offensive linemen].”
The chances of finding another quality veteran offensive left tackle on the NFL scrap heap isn’t as easy as it may sound. For now, it’s going to be Johnson and Ugoh — among others — fighting it out for a starting job.
“The left tackle store is closed, unfortunately. And, besides, there are no Tarik Glenn’s available in the left tackle store. They come along once every ten years,” Polian said. “Left tackles who can play in our system rarely come along, unless you get them in the top of the first round.
“[Trading two draft picks, including a first-round selection in 2008, in order to move up and take Ugoh] was an opportunity to get a player who had similar skills and similar temperment, similar physical qualities [to Glenn]. So that was one that you couldn’t pass up because the Tarik Glenn’s of the world are rare. He didn’t receive nearly enough recognition in terms of Pro Bowl and All-Pro and things like that, in our opinion. But we knew he was out there every week and he could be counted upon every week.”
The Colts’ attitude to filling the huge gap — both physically and emotionally — left by Glenn’s departure is much the same as it’s been when replacing other high-profile players in recent years.
“The National Football League is what it is. And you’re always going to have situations where you lose players. [Former Indianapolis wide receiver] Brandon Stokley went down in the second week of [training] camp last year. I had a miserable night and got up the next morning and we moved on,” Polian said.
“That’s what the National Football League is about. And that’s how you have to deal with things in the National Football League. It doesn’t make the personal feelings any different, but professionally you move on and that’s what we’ll do.”