Diem's retirement starts flurry of Colts moves
INDIANAPOLIS – The Colts' reconstruction project kicked into high gear again Friday when two free agents landed with new teams, they traded for a backup quarterback, added a free agent receiver and said goodbye to a longtime offensive lineman.
It's just another day in Indianapolis' turbulent offseason.
The latest flurry began in the morning when Ryan Diem, the longtime anchor on the right side of Indy's offensive line and Northern Illinois alumnus, used Twitter to announce his retirement.
"It's been a heck of a ride... Time for a new chapter. I am retiring! " Diem posted Friday morning on Twitter after meeting with team owner Jim Irsay.
Things were just getting started.
By mid-afternoon, the Colts had lost Pro Bowl center Jeff Saturday, who agreed to a two-year deal with Green Bay, and tight end Jacob Tamme who agreed to a new contract with Denver. The move will reunite Tamme with Peyton Manning, who was released March 7 and signed with the Broncos on Tuesday.
Indy still wasn't finished, trading a sixth-round draft pick acquired recently from Philadelphia to the Jets to get Drew Stanton and New York's seventh-round pick. Stanton signed a one-year, $1.25 million contract earlier this month to back up Mark Sanchez, but lost that job when the Jets finally consummated a deal for Tim Tebow, the Broncos' previous starter.
"Drew is a big, athletic and strong-armed quarterback that has the intangible package we are looking for at the position," new general manager Ryan Grigson said in a statement.
Before the whirlwind ended, the Colts announced they agreed to a contract with former Rams and Titans receiver Donnie Avery.
Avery has started 28 games in three NFL seasons after being taken by St. Louis in the second round of the 2008 draft.
"Donnie is a very fast wide receiver who has had a productive past," Grigson said. "He is an excellent fit for our offense and will help shape our receiving corps moving forward."
Given what's happened over the past two months, Colts fans shouldn't be surprised by the pace or scope of the moves as the team essentially starts over.
Irsay cleaned out the front office, replaced coach Jim Caldwell with Chuck Pagano and got rid of most of Caldwell's assistants -- all in January.
The biggest moves have come in just the past few weeks with the release of Manning and the subsequent decision to cut running back Joseph Addai, defensive captains Gary Brackett and Melvin Bullitt, tight end Dallas Clark and backup quarterback Curtis Painter. Indy already had lost starting receiver Pierre Garcon to Washington in free agency, a list Tamme and Saturday joined Friday.
"We wish Jeff Sat the best,I wanted him to work for team full time but he wanted to go at it one more year..he's as good of a man as it gets," Irsay wrote on Twitter after the deal was confirmed.
With Saturday and Diem now gone, it's likely the Colts could open next season with at least seven new starters on offense.
Diem started 150 games in 11 seasons with the Colts, mostly at right tackle. During that time, Diem became a favorite of Manning. The bond was so tight that when Manning took less money to stay with the Colts last July, the team used its savings to bring back Diem and Addai, two players Manning thought would be key to the Colts' success.
Now, none is with the team.
"ColtFans,met with Ryan D,big(hash)71 in ur hearts n program,yesterday;he is going 2 retire,raise those new twins,we wish him happy alumnus status," Irsay wrote.
The overhaul began after Manning missed the entire 2011 season following a series of neck surgeries, Indy went a league-worst 2-14 and wound up with the No. 1 overall draft pick. It is expected to take Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck with that choice.
The sudden collapse immediately put the Colts, one of the league's model franchises for more than a decade, into rebuilding mode.
The Colts took Diem as a fourth-round draft pick in 2001. The Northern Illinois alum started eight games his rookie season at right guard, then became a regular at right tackle until moving back inside last season.
"Thanks for the opportunity, Mr. Irsay!" Diem wrote. "The last 11 years have been unbelievable, and I appreciate every minute of it."
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