INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — New coach Chuck Pagano is returning to his past to rebuild the Colts.
On Wednesday, the Colts officially re-signed receiver Reggie Wayne to a three-year deal worth $17.5 million and signed free-agent defensive end Cory Redding to help anchor Indianapolis’ conversion of a 3-4 defense. Terms of Redding’s deal were not released.
Wayne befriended Pagano when the two were with Miami at the same time, Pagano as a coach and Wayne as a player. Redding has played the past two seasons in Baltimore, where Pagano was the defensive coordinator last year.
“I believed my time was up in Baltimore and my relationship with Chuck the last two years made this very easy,” Redding said during a conference call with reporters. “That’s why I’m here. It’s mostly on Chuck and my relationship with him and doing something special with the Colts.”
Adding Redding, a 6’4″, 298-pound end who is entering his 10th NFL season, marks a change in philosophy for a Colts team that has typically run the 4-3 and relied on smaller, faster players to chase down opponents. The switch to Pagano’s preferred style could give Indy a whole new look.
Last week, the Colts cut defensive captains Gary Brackett and Melvin Bullitt. They also re-signed Pro Bowl defensive end Robert Mathis to a four-year, $36 million contract. In the new defense, the 245-pound Mathis may be a better fit at linebacker.
With Redding lining up at end, Pagano now has the bigger pass-rusher he needs on the edge of the line and a player who is already familiar with the system.
“The biggest thing is football players are going to be what they are — football players,” Redding said. “I believe with Chuck’s history and bringing guys in slowly last year, they understood the package so when they got on the field, there wasn’t no guessing. They knew what they were supposed to do, and with me helping out and kind of backing him up, I believe we can help the guys learn a lot faster.”
The addition of Redding is a rare move for a Colts’ team that has traditionally focused on keeping its own free agents in town.
It also could cause more upheaval for a team that has undergone a massive makeover since January.
After going an NFL-worst 2-14 and earning the No. 1 pick in next month’s draft, team owner Jim Irsay fired the father-son front office tandem of Bill and Chris Polian. He also got rid of coach Jim Caldwell and most of his staff in January.
Then last week, the Colts cleaned the roster out. Gone are four-time league MVP Peyton Manning, Brackett, Bullitt, running back Joseph Addai, tight end Dallas Clark and backup quarterback Curtis Painter.
And the next big departure could be Pro Bowl defensive end Dwight Freeney, who is reportedly being shopped by the Colts. New general manager Ryan Grigson would not confirm he was looking to deal or cut Freeney, who counts $19 million against this season’s salary cap. Getting rid of Freeney could save Indy $14 million against the cap immediately.
On Tuesday night, word leaked that Wayne, one of Manning’s favorite targets, was staying with the Colts — the same team that drafted him with the No. 30 overall pick in 2001. The 33-year-old Wayne is No. 2 all-time in franchise history in receptions (862), yards receiving (11,708) and TD receptions (73).
Plus, Wayne will give presumed No. 1 pick Andrew Luck a steady hand to lean on.
“As everybody knows, Coach Pagano and I are really good friends. I wanted to do it for him,” Wayne said. “I know it’s going to be a tough situation going into it, but who knows, it may work out for the better in the long run. Even if I’m not here, I can always say I helped build that foundation.”
Grigson isn’t finished making moves, either.
Earlier Wednesday, the Colts swapped sixth-round picks in this year’s draft with Philadelphia. The Colts will give up the second pick in the round and will get the Eagles pick (No. 17 in the round) along with offensive tackle Winston Justice, a second-round pick in 2006 who has started 31 games over his career.
For Wayne, the opportunity to finish his career in the same he started means even more.
“I could have made a couple of dollars more, a couple more pennies. But, I was fine with this situation that I’m in,” Wayne said. “Right before I made my decision, I took 30 minutes and just closed myself in my office. I just thought (about) what all made sense and put everything in perspective. Like I said, I Googled myself and looked at all my career stats and put everything into a small bottle and shook it up. The first thing that came to my mind and popped out was to stay here with the Colts.”
Notes: Carlie Irsay-Gordon, Casey Irsay Foyt and Kalen Irsay, Irsay’s three daughters, will now hold the titles of vice chairman/owner. Longtime general counsel Dan Emerson will now get the title of vice president and general counsel. James Bettcher has been hired as Pagano’s special assistant and Mike Bluem has been named director of football administration.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)