Caldwell: Hayden gives Colts stability, leadership

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
INDIANAPOLIS -- The Colts have let a lot of cornerbacks walk when they reached free agency -- Nick Harper and Jason David started for the Indy team that won the Super Bowl, then both signed elsewhere.

Reinvesting in corners hasn't been the rule, they've turned to the next guy.

But Kelvin Hayden is better than Harper or David, or guys like Walt Harris, David Macklin or Tyrone Poole were.

And so Hayden qualified as different.

Bill Polian said Hayden was the team's top priority as free agency approached. Wednesday the Colts locked him up with a five-year, $43 million contract with $22 million guaranteed.

What makes Hayden so different?

"Obviously he's a very important part of our defense. Kelvin's been playing extremely well for us," coach Jim Caldwell said. "Throughout the years he's done a tremendous job. He's a guy that certainly gives us some stability and leadership, so we're certainly glad to have him.

"He's in the prime of his career, he's 26 years old, he's at the right age and certainly those factors were considered. Also his overall play is just outstanding."

Center Jeff Saturday would seem to be next in line for the Colts. A franchise tag would cost $8.45 million. The deadline for that is Thursday.

The veteran center has been a key piece to the offense, and Caldwell spurned questions about how the team would go forward without Saturday.

"That's a bit premature, just in that you're beginning to act if he's already gone," Caldwell said. "I'm looking at it from a different perspective. He's with us until otherwise indicated. Yeah, he's been, and certainly we anticipate will continue to be, a very, very important part of our offense."

Other notes from Caldwell's podium session at the combine:

  • He indicated he expected Marvin Harrison would be back and said "we did not see any diminishing in terms of his skills and ability" in 2008.

  • He said the big surprise in the early stages of life as a head coach was that "in this position, you could literally work 24 hours a day, because there is always something to do."

  • He's talked a few times with Tony Dungy since he took over following Dungy's retirement.

  • He's fine with the overtime rules as they are.