In an effort to ease their impending salary cap burden, the Colts have granted veteran offensive lineman Adam Meadows permission to speak with other NFL franchises in advance of his eventual release, ESPN.com has learned.
The Colts have approximately $75.3 million committed to their 2004 cap, are in discussions with league co-most valuable player Manning about a landmark contract, and will need to create some wiggle room to accommodate him and continue to bolster their roster.
Meadows, 30, is entering the final year of his contract and has a cap charge of $8.735 million for 2004, an exorbitant amount for a player who lost his starting job in 2003.
By releasing Meadows, the Colts can recoup $5 million in cap room, an amount equal to his scheduled base salary for 2004. Meadows will still count $3.735 million against the spending limit because of prorated signing and renegotiation bonuses. Meadows would have preferred to finish his career with the Colts but the cap situation made that impossible.
Granting permission for Meadows to talk with other teams, prior to his release and before the start of the free agency period on March 3, will allow the classy veteran a head start on finding a new home. Agent Don Henderson had previously requested the Colts release his client early, since it was no secret that Meadows, a close friend of Manning, no longer fit into Indianapolis' plans.
Henderson has already spoken to one team about Meadows, a franchise he declined to identify, and hopes to set up meetings with officials from other clubs for next week, when the annual pre-draft scouting combine convenes in Indianapolis. League scouts agree that Meadows should still have several solid seasons remaining and, for many clubs, he would still be regarded as a starter.
A second-round pick in the 1997 draft, the former University of Georgia standout became a starter in his rookie campaign, and averaged 15.2 starts over his first six NFL seasons. Last spring, Indianapolis shuffled its starting unit, elevating Ryan Diem to the No. 1 spot at right tackle and Meadows was relegated to a reserve role.
The seven-year veteran appeared in 12 games and started five contests, mostly at guard, before concluding the season on injured reserve. In all, Meadows has played 103 games, starting in 96 of them. He played his rookie year at left tackle, moved to right tackle in 1998, and was a fixture at the latter spot for five years.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.