INDIANAPOLIS (Feb. 22, 2006) -- Reggie Wayne wanted to stay with a winner.
The Indianapolis Colts' wide receiver agreed to a $39 million, six-year contract, a move that makes him one of the NFL's highest-paid receivers and allows the Colts to use their franchise tag on another player if they choose. Wayne's deal includes a $13.5 million signing bonus.
"He's thrilled, he could not think more highly of the owner, Jimmy (Irsay), Bill (Polian), and Coach (Tony) Dungy is someone he respects more than anybody he's ever been with," said Wayne's agent, David Dunn. "And he has the maturity to understand the importance of winning."
Polian, the Colts' president, would not confirm the deal after concluding a competition committee meeting at the NFL Scouting Combine.
But the Colts had no intention of letting Wayne get away.
Since their playoff loss to Pittsburgh last month, Polian had repeatedly made it clear Wayne's contract was his top offseason priority -- implying the Colts would not hesitate to use the franchise tag on their leading receiver from last season.
Wayne caught a team-high 83 passes, one more than his Pro Bowl teammate, Marvin Harrison. It marked the first time in Wayne's five seasons that he led the team in receptions.
The sides finally agreed to the deal less than 24 hours before the NFL's deadline to designate franchise players.
But Wayne wanted more than money out of his contract.
"He thinks in terms of enjoying the situation with the team and the offense he's familiar with," Dunn said. "And having Peyton (Manning) throwing you the ball and coach Dungy doesn't hurt. He thinks it's a good situation."
Wayne has caught 304 passes for 4,164 yards and 28 touchdowns in five seasons. He topped the 1,000-yard mark in 2004 and 2005 when he established himself as one of Manning's top targets. He caught a then-career-high 77 passes for 1,210 yards and 12 TDs in 2004 when he became part of the NFL's first receiving trio to top 1,000 yards and 10 TDs.
He followed that with last year's 83-catch, 1,055-yard season as his role continued to expand.
While Wayne could have fled the Colts for another team, where he could have avoided being overshadowed by Harrison, the Colts' career receiving leader, he opted to stay with a team that has won three straight AFC South titles and been to one conference title game.
"Over the last month, I became acutely aware of how much he wanted to win," Dunn said.
Wayne's signing means the Colts will keep their passing attack intact long-term.
Harrison signed a six-year, $66 million deal in December 2004. Manning, a two-time NFL MVP, signed a seven-year, $98 million deal in March 2004. The Colts' No. 3 receiver, Brandon Stokley, agreed to a lucrative five-year deal late in the 2004 season.
But now the Colts must make other decisions.
Edgerrin James, a two-time league rushing champion, will become an unrestricted free agent March 3 unless the Colts put the franchise tag on him for the second straight year.
Three other key players -- linebacker David Thornton, defensive lineman Raheem Brock and kicker Mike Vanderjagt -- also are expected to become unrestricted free agents next week.
Polian said he still had not decided whether to use the franchise tag this year.
"I don't know," Polian said. "If we do, we'll announce it."