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Last Article Written: December 19, 1999

Polian Refutes Globe Report on Cap Figures

By Mike Devitt

According to a report that appeared in the Boston Globe nearly two weeks ago, the Indianapolis Colts are expected to be between nine and 14 million dollars below next year's estimated salary cap.

According to Colts team president Bill Polian, however, those numbers aren't worth the paper they were printed on.

"We're not going to be anywhere near nine million dollars under the salary cap," Polian said in a radio interview after the Colts' 24-21 victory over the Washington Redskins. "In fact, we're going to be probably a couple million over, when you count in all of the incentives that guys will earn for the kinds of years they had."

Among those players expected to benefit most from the Colts' 12-2 season is rookie running back Edgerrin James, who signed a seven-year, $49 million contract with Indianapolis this spring. On Sunday, James rushed 22 times for 89 yards, giving him a total of 1,400 for the season and reaching every statistical incentive that had been written into his contract for 1999. As a result, by the time the season is over, James will have earned an as estimated $14.75 million from the Colts this year -- the most earned by any player for a single year's service in league history.

Because of the structure of James' contract, which pays him a lower (and therefore, more cap-friendly) base salary but is loaded with other statistical incentives and clauses that count against the following year's salary cap, as much as $13 million of the money James earns this season will count toward the Colts' cap for 2000. That situation would consume all of the $5 million to cap is expected to be raised next season and could force Polian to restructure other contracts or release higher-priced players.

Talk about a millennium bug.

"I think we're going to be bumping up against it," Polian said of next year's cap numbers. "There's the normal attrition that you would expect which gets you barely under, but I think that's where we'll be -- barely under.

Polian also noted that a number of starters on the Colts will be free agents at the end of this season or next season, including Ken Dilger, Marvin Harrison, Mark Thomas and Jason Belser. For him, the most important thing is making sure Harrison and the team's other key components remain Colts in the future, then adding to the core of his team the same way he did as an executive with the Buffalo Bills and Carolina Panthes -- through the draft.

"Our focus… is going to be on resigning our own guys," said Polian. "We won't be very active in the free agent market. What improving we do will be through the draft. I can tell you that unequivocally.

"We are committed to keeping this team intact as much as we possibly can, but I have to tell you that the system mitigates against it. We've got two of the big three signed long-term, but we still have Marvin to sign. We still have the offensive linemen coming up … most of the defensive guys are signed, but it's going to be tight, and the system mitigates against keeping everybody."

While Polian admitted that keeping the team's current nucleus together is his top priority, he also realizes that the current salary cap structure doesn't allow him such a luxury.

"We hope not to lose anybody, but we realize we're going to lose some … if it were up to me, I'd keep every guy on this football team, and every rookie that came in here would have to fight for his life, but that's not the way the system works anymore.

"You have to understand that to a large extent the system helped us get we are as quickly as we can. When you use it to your advantage as we did this year, you can't bellyache about it when it comes back to bite you … There'll be some losses, and we're going to have to fight our way through them, but we're going to try and keep -- and will be committed to keeping -- the core together as much as we can."

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Mike Devitt is a columnist for AllSports. He can be reached by e-mail at

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