Colts expected to release Harrison

Updated: February 24, 2009, 12:55 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

INDIANAPOLIS -- Marvin Harrison refused to take a pay cut. The Indianapolis Colts couldn't afford to keep him without one.

On Monday, the two sides reached agreement on one thing: Harrison will be a free agent.

Agent Tom Condon told The Associated Press that Indianapolis has agreed to release the franchise's all-time leading receiver, although an official announcement is not expected until Tuesday or Wednesday.

The decision comes one day after team president Bill Polian said he hoped to cut a deal that would keep Harrison in Indy. When Harrison said no, the Colts said farewell.

"There was no hardball with this, just heartache," Polian told ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen.

"Basically, we were not able to come to any kind of agreement, it was not contentious and the Colts have agreed to release him," Condon said in a phone interview.

It's not a surprising move because the Colts would save about $6 million, based on Harrison's base salary. They would still be charged for prorated bonuses from the $66 million deal he signed in December 2004.

The Colts found it too expensive for a 36-year-old receiver coming off one of the least productive seasons of his career.

Harrison ranks second in NFL history with 1,102 receptions, and the move will disappoint many Colts fans, who embraced Harrison as a favorite. They referred to Harrison, Peyton Manning and Edgerrin James as "The Triplets," and Harrison was one of the franchise's most identifiable players in the past decade.

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His penchant for toe-tapping catches along the sideline and incredible grabs in the middle of the field helped the Colts build one of the league's most successful franchises in this decade.

But longtime teammates understood why Harrison wanted to become a free agent.

"I think whatever Marvin chooses to do for himself, he has to do," center Jeff Saturday said Sunday night. "I love Marvin as a friend and as a teammate."

Indianapolis took Harrison in the first round of the 1996 draft and when Manning arrived two years later, the tandem began a record-setting journey.

They combined for more completions, yardage and touchdowns than any duo in league history.

Harrison made eight Pro Bowls, won a Super Bowl ring, and his 14,550 yards rank fourth on the NFL's career list. He is No. 5 all time with 128 TD catches and holds all major single-season and career receiving marks for the Colts.

Over the past two seasons, though, Harrison hasn't been up to his usual standards.

He missed all but five games in 2007 because of injuries, underwent offseason knee surgery and then caught 60 passes in 2008 -- far less than half of his NFL-record 143 in 2002.

Philadelphia police also believe one of Harrison's guns was used in an April shooting in his hometown. No charges were filed against Harrison, and the man who made the accusation was convicted on a misdemeanor charge of lying to police.

On the field, Manning has looked more frequently for three-time Pro Bowl selection Reggie Wayne and Anthony Gonzalez, a first-round pick in 2007.

Yet coaches and Polian insisted Harrison's skills had not deteriorated.

"What I saw is a guy who is as quick as he's been, with the same hands, and he has the ability he's always had," new coach Jim Caldwell said Thursday at the NFL's annual scouting combine.

And Polian insisted he still wanted Harrison back in his familiar No. 88 jersey.

"Hopefully, we'll find a way to work through that [the contract]," Polian said Sunday. "I don't know if we will, but we hope to."

They couldn't.

Now Harrison will look for work elsewhere. Some have speculated that he would like to play with his hometown Eagles and former college teammate Donovan McNabb.

The Colts will have a vastly different look next season.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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