|While it does not affect his much-publicized desire for a long-term contract, or possibly even a new address, Indianapolis Colts star running back Edgerrin James on Wednesday signed the one-year "franchise" qualifying offer, team officials told ESPN.com|
The qualifying offer, which in James' case is $8.08 million, is essentially equivalent to a one-year contract. By signing the deal, James guaranteed the money and he precludes the Colts from rescinding the "franchise" designation placed on him last month.
"This is by no means a resolution to the situation," agent Drew Rosenhaus said. "It is, we feel, an interim step, but by no means the final step. Our goals remain unchanged. The preference, as it has been, is to sign a long-term contract with the Colts. And absent that, the goal becomes to have the Colts trade (James). People should not lose sight of that."
|2004 SEASON STATISTICS|
Wednesday marked the deadline by which teams and "franchise" players had to reach a multi-year contract agreement. There is now an unofficial four-month moratorium, until July 15, on reaching long-term contract accords with "franchise" players. While teams can strike long-term deals in the four-month period, it would mean carrying a "franchise" marker on a player for the entire length of any such contract.
By waiting until after July 15, teams can sign players to long-term contracts and regain the use of the "franchise" tag for future years.
Rosenhaus acknowledged that, in the current climate, there was no chance of arriving at a long-term arrangement with the Colts before the Wednesday deadline of 4 p.m. Neither, in a market that has been notably depressed for tailbacks, even those the caliber of James, was there the likelihood of a trade. The Bucs, Cardinals and Dolphins are the three main teams looking to find a new featured back.
In the past three weeks, Rosenhaus has aggressively sought a suitor for James and been unable to generate much interest. Under such a scenario, it was prudent to sign the one-year qualifying offer, and guarantee the $8.08 million salary. There was always a chance, albeit a slim one, that Indianapolis could have rescinded the "franchise' tag in July, when teams would not have the cap room to meet James' contact demands. That is no longer possible now.
Signing the qualifying offer does not mean the Colts won't eventually trade James.
What will bear watching is if James reports for the Colts offseason programs, any of the minicamps, or even training camp, absent a long-term deal. Now that he has signed the qualifying offer, James is technically under contract and can be fined if he boycotts any of the mandatory offseason sessions. James could precipitate a showdown of sorts, and raise the level of contentiousness in negotiations, by skipping offseason workouts.
Rosenhaus declined to discuss the likelihood his client will be absent from mandatory offseason sessions.
ESPN.com first reported last week that, given the depressed market for running backs, along with other financial factors, Indianapolis general manager Bill Polian apprised Rosenhaus the Colts would be unable to offer James a long-term deal. Polian also told ESPN.com that he would phone teams himself to gauge interest in the star tailback.
Asked if he preferred that James return to the Colts in 2005, Polian said: "I think that the question is, what's it going to take to get him back? I think that's the No. 1 question."
James, 26, was the Colts' first-round pick in the 1999 draft, and has rushed for 1,000 yards in four of his six seasons in the league, and 1,500-plus yards three times. That includes 1,548 yards in 2004.
For his career, James has 7,720 yards and 51 touchdowns on 1,828 rushes. He has also caught 312 passes for 2,502 yards and 10 touchdowns.