|Wayne's career in Indy may be over but he'll play somewhere (New England?) in 2012. (US PRESSWIRE)|
By Ryan Wilson
Way back in August, days after the lockout had ended and before any of the 32 teams had their hopes and dreams crushed, Colts owner Jim Irsay asked veteran wide receiver Reggie Wayne, in the last year of his contract, to be patient. There would be no new deal during the season.
"At this point," Irsay said at the time, "I don't anticipate that sort of thing, an extension or anything like that. We always talk about next year, where we're going to be with the (salary) cap, what type of situation we're going to be in because it's going to come quickly. We prepare for next year whether it's Pierre (Garcon), or Robert and Reggie."
The Colts stumbled to a 2-14 record without Peyton Manning, who along with Wayne, appears to have played his last game in Indy. To Wayne's credit, he never complained publicly or entertained thoughts of holding out, even saying last summer that "I'm a Colt, what else I'm gonna be?"
On Friday, ESPN's Josina Anderson asked Wayne about his NFL future. He doesn't sound much different in February than he did in July.
"All I know is the Colts," he said. "That is where I want to be. I have been there 11 years and I would prefer to end my career a Colt.
"However, in due time those feelings could subside. I know one thing, my phone works. I do have service and every last bar on it and their number has not come across it yet. I haven't heard anything from [the Colts] yet, so maybe I am not as important on the chain of command as I should be.
"But either way, I'm cool," Wayne continued. "I have nothing bad to say about the Colts. The Colts took me in and made me a millionaire. I had nothing before I got here but a bunch of invoices. So either way I am still good, and I will still be friends with all of my teammates. But I am still at a point with all of this Peyton stuff, and this Andrew Luck stuff that I can't be all the way worrying just about that. My phone hasn't rung yet. It's only fair I worry about number 87 first. When I'm signed, then I can weigh in more."
We've been saying for almost two months that Wayne's future could be tied to Manning's. Wherever Peyton ends up, it wouldn't be unreasonable to think that Wayne won't be far behind. (This week, the Dolphins are the favorites to land Manning; Wayne went to the U. And if Manning goes to the Jets, it makes sense that Wayne would follow him there too.)
But should the duo go their separate ways after playing together for a decade, the Patriots would be a logical landing spot for the wide receiver. Here's what we wrote on December 22 about possible destinations for Wayne in 2012:
"1. New England. Consider it payback for Adam Vinatieri, but more importantly, it’ll give Tom Brady the deep threat Chad Ochocinco never developed into. Wayne’s game is built on precise route-running, which is imperative in Peyton Manning’s offense (and Brady's). And it’s something Ochocinco never had to worry about in Cincinnati."
Wayne isn't a burner (he's 33 and an 11-year veteran), but he knows how to get open on short, medium and deep routes, something Ochocinco struggled with from the moment he arrived in Foxboro.
And while Wayne-to-the-Pats was nothing more than speculation, it also makes sense. Former Patriots linebacker Willie McGinest, now an NFL Network analyst, has spoken to Wayne about relocating to New England.
“It came up in the conversation would he ever want to play for the Patriots,” McGinest said according to the Boston Herald. “He smiled and said, ‘Who wouldn’t want to play there?’
“If it could have worked with Chad (Ochocinco), it would have been good. It didn’t. I just think (Tom Brady) has a lot of weapons, but he can always use that stretch-the-field receiver," McGinest said. "When they had Randy (Moss) there, it really made it tough for teams to stop them. Reggie Wayne is somebody who could stretch the field. He has great hands, he’s a professional who could pick up the system. Having another big-time receiver like that would put it over the top.”
And that was our point back in December. Ochocinco has been a disaster, Wes Welker is a possession receiver not a deep threat, and the passing offense is built around the tight ends.
ProFootballTalk.com's Michael David Smith points out that Bill Belichick is a longtime Wayne fan, too.
“I can’t say enough about Reggie Wayne,” Belichick said during the 2009 season. “That guy is the best receiver we cover every year and it seems like he just keeps getting better.”
The Patriots have a history of taking guys who regularly torch them. That's how Welker ended up in New England in 2007.
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