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Thursday, September 1, 2005
Defensive tackle Simon to take physical, sign deal

By Len Pasquarelli
ESPN.com

With the remaining issues successfully addressed Thursday morning, and all of the contract language now resolved, free agent defensive tackle Corey Simon is set to fly to Indianapolis for a Friday physical examination and, barring any complications, will officially sign a five-year contract with the Colts.

Corey Simon
Defensive Tackle
Philadelphia Eagles
Profile
2004 SEASON STATISTICS
Tot Ast Solo FF Sack Int
32 27 5 0 6 0

Agent Roosevelt Barnes confirmed that final details of the contract were completed. The deal is expected to be worth about $30 million, with $13 million in bonuses.

Citing sources close to the negotiations, ESPN.com reported Wednesday night the two sides had reached agreement in principle on all the key financial components of the contract and that the deal would be wrapped up Thursday, once some incidental details were resolved. Two Colts players told ESPN.com on Wednesday night they were told by a member of the coaching staff earlier in the evening that the acquisition of Simon was imminent.

At least two other franchises, the Cincinnati Bengals and Seattle Seahawks, until Wednesday night had remained in the hunt for Simon, who became a free agent on Sunday night when the Philadelphia Eagles rescinded the franchise designation placed on him six months ago. There were also a few other teams that had stayed in contact with Barnes, but which did not get involved in substantive negotiations.

It was Indianapolis, however, which ratcheted up discussions and struck a deal that will make Simon one of the NFL's highest paid defensive tackles.

Landing the five-year veteran is a coup for the Colts, who have been criticized in some quarters for the perceived failure to upgrade a defense that statistically ranked No. 29 in the league in 2004. The Colts brass apparently feels Simon could be the kind of interior force that defensive tackle Warren Sapp was in Tampa Bay when Indianapolis' Tony Dungy was the Bucs' head coach.

Certainly a player of Simon's caliber, a defender who can provide inside penetration and has the rare ability to collapse the pocket from the tackle spot, will only enhance the upfield rush skills of "edge" players such as star right end Dwight Freeney, the league's defending sack champion. Training camp injuries to veteran starter Montae Reagor and to third-round draft choice Vincent Burns have left the Colts thin at defensive tackle. But a trio of Simon, Reagor and Larry Tripplett, if everyone is healthy, should provide the team an excellent tackle rotation.

Simon, 28, has 32 career sacks and 105 quarterback hurries, numbers that illustrate his skills as a pass rusher. But the former Florida State star, who has one of the thickest lower bodies in the league, is also a solid defender against the run. And he figures to benefit from the one-gap style favored by Dungy and coordinator Ron Meeks.

While surprising, the Eagles' decision to rescind the franchise marker on Sunday was not altogether stunning, given the depth the Eagles possess at the position, and the frustration of some club officials at not being able to get the former first-round draft choice into training camp. Simon had declined to sign the one-year qualifying offer of $5.134 million for a defensive tackle. The Eagles, because of collective bargaining language governing franchise players, could not negotiate a long-term deal with Simon until he signed the one-year tender.

By rescinding the qualifying offer, the Eagles recouped the $5.134 million in salary cap space that was assigned to Simon. The characteristically cap-healthy Eagles, who usually have one of the best managed caps in the league, did not need the extra money to make any roster moves. Instead, the club simply decided it could survive without Simon, who has started every game in which he appeared for the team.

The Eagles enjoy rare depth at defensive tackle, a position is historically difficult to fill for any NFL club. In addition to starting veterans Darwin Walker and Hollis Thomas and key backups Sam Rayburn and Paul Grasmanis, the team used its first-round pick in this year's draft to grab former Southern California standout defensive tackle Mike Patterson, who has played well in camp and the preseason.

There had been rumors that Simon would report before the start of the season, and some teammates and even Philadelphia officials had remained in close contact with him, as he worked out at his home in Tallahassee, Fla. Clearly, though, the Eagles were not inclined to wait any longer for the five-year veteran.

Philadelphia nearly traded Simon to the Baltimore Ravens earlier in the spring. In fact, the two teams had agreed on compensation, believed to have been second- and third-round picks in the 2005 draft, but Simon could not reach agreement with the Ravens on a long-term contract and the discussions fell apart.

A Pro Bowl performer in 2003, Simon was the Eagles' first-round choice in the 2000 draft and he has missed only two regular-season games. In addition to his sack totals, he has 270 tackles, six forced fumbles, three recoveries and 15 pass deflections, and has appeared in 78 games.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here Insider.