By Tom James
INDIANAPOLIS — When the NFL’s free agent period begins tonight at midnight, don’t
be surprised if the agent for
Indianapolis Colts center Jeff Saturday makes a phone call to the
Saturday is an unrestricted free agent who, according to Ralph Cindrich, has expressed an interest in playing for the defending Super Bowl champions. Never mind that the Steelers already have a veteran center in Justin Hartwig.
“He’s happy to play guard. He started in the league at guard. He told me, ‘I’ll play anywhere,’ “ Cindrich told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “I talked to Jeff after the Super Bowl, and he said if you can get me there, that would be beautiful. This is a Rooney-type of guy if ever there was one.”
Pittsburgh has a key free agent offensive linemen of their own in guard Chris Kemoeatu, who is expected to test the open market.
Cindrich also represents Steelers linebacker James Farrior and sees some similarity in the approach each player takes in preparing for a game.
“I believe that James Farrior is one of the best leaders in the NFL. Jeff Saturday is equal to Farrior. He really controls the whole offensive line, makes every call,” Cindrich said.
“It’s a Farrior-type situation, where age scares teams. Farrior’s first four to five years, he didn’t get beat up. Jeff is the same way.”
Saturday had a meeting with Colts owner Jim Irsay on Tuesday, but there has been no word on whether there was any movement from either side. Indianapolis had made a contract offer this past weekend, but the four-time Pro Bowl selection turned down the deal after conferring with his wife.
“Unless the market is totally flat, I don’t think [he’ll return to the Colts],” Cindrich said. “I feel like something could be done, but you never know about the Steelers. They like to pay their own more than somebody else. Jeff came back from injury and played strong. I honestly believe he could make a difference.”
• • •
• Ex-Colts factor — Three former Indianapolis stalwarts — running back Edgerrin James along with outside linebackers Marcus Washington and Cato June — could be in the mix to return to their original team.
June was one of five veteran players released Wednesday by Tampa Bay, joining outside linebacker Derrick Brooks, running back Warrick Dunn, wide receiver Ike Hillard and wide receiver Joey Galloway. The release of the former Michigan standout June’s creates $1 million in cap room for the Buccaneers.
Tampa Bay cleared $12.45 million in total cap room, which possibly pushes their total cap bulge over $60 million. The team cleared an additional $2.95 million as a result of roster bonuses that won’t be paid.
As for James, it’s no secret that he has asked the Arizona Cardinals for his release. He has said that he wouldn’t mind coming back to the Colts if something could be worked out. He also has expressed a desire to perhaps land in Tampa, which would put him closer to his Miami-area home.
At the present time, the former Indianapolis first-round draft pick — who signed a four-year $30 million dollar free agent contract with Arizona in March 2006 — is still on the Cardinals roster. When and if that might change remains to be seen. He is due to earn approximately $5 million for the 2009 season should he remain with the defending NFC champions.
“We have not made a definitive decision with respect to Edgerrin James. We did have a conversation during the season where there was an acknowledgment about how he felt about being with us after the season. We said we would sit down and talk about that once the season was over,” Arizona general manager Rod Graves said during the National Football Scouting Combine.
“But there was no commitment with respect to a time frame or even that we would let him go. We just said we would sit down and talk about it after the season. We’ll weigh any decision with respect to him or any other player as it affects our roster and the strength of our roster. Until then, no decision has been made.”
Washington, meanwhile, was released by the Washington Redskins late last week. A second-round pick by Indianapolis in 2000, he has spent the last four seasons with Washington but was let go partly due to salary cap concerns as well as recurring hamstring problems which have limited his effectiveness the last two seasons. The team will save approximately $4 million with the move.
“As free agency approaches there are difficult choices that have to be made,” Redskins coach Jim Zorn said in a statement released by the team. “This certainly was a hard decision because Marcus played such an important role on our defense and in our locker room. Marcus has been an outstanding professional and has made some great contributions to the Redskins organization over the past five seasons.”