The Indianapolis Colts have agreed to terms with WR Reggie Wayne on a three-year contract extension, a move that has surprised several NFL fans. Pro Football Talk reports that the deal totals out to $17.5 million, with $7.5 million guaranteed.
Wayne, who was originally drafted by the Colts in 2001, has spent his entire career in Indianapolis. With a three-year extension that should see him through to age 36 should he play it out, it looks like Wayne will remain a Colt for the rest of his NFL career.
Several NFL fans and analysts were caught off guard by the move. ProFootballFocus analyst Sam Monson was particularly surprised:
Reggie Wayne back to Indy makes little sense to me. They blew up the org, and Wayne looks to be slowing. Waste
Though Indianapolis is in the midst of a major roster overhaul, including the jettison of All-Pro quarterback Peyton Manning, likely introduction of new franchise passer Andrew Luck and transition from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense, Colts GM Ryan Grigson decided to re-sign the veteran wideout.
Critics such as Monson may find themselves identifying where the concentration on a youth movement, particularly on building around Luck, comes into conflict with this move. But the fact is, the Colts still need a veteran presence in the locker room and a reliable target on the field. As of March 13, the only Indy receivers—including all wide receivers and tight ends—of any marginal note on the roster are Austin Collie and Blair White.
Wayne will likely find himself in a starting role again in 2012. He should prove a reliable target for Luck in the same sense that Steve Smith proved to be a trusted veteran presence for Cam Newton in 2011, though Wayne is obviously a bit less explosive than the Carolina Panthers' wideout at this stage in his career.
This move is more for Luck and the Colts' locker room than it is a testament to Wayne's dynamic presence. Though he can still make tough, critical catches, Wayne is clearly on the downside of his career—has been for a few years—and no longer has the necessary speed to separate himself any more than 20 yards downfield. Look for Wayne to establish a rapport with Luck on comeback and crossing routes, as well as on quick-slant patterns.
Though Indianapolis still needs to inject youth into its offensive ranks, this signing reintroduces a reliable presence to an offense that is currently in shambles and should greatly benefit Luck as he navigates the perils of a rookie year under center.