INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indianapolis Colts knew the salary cap would put them in a pinch. They were hoping it wouldn't hurt too much.
No such luck.
The team, already prepared for wide receiver Marvin Harrison and punter Hunter Smith to become free agents Friday, now must add defensive end Josh Thomas and running back Dominic Rhodes to the list.
Thomas' agent, Craig Domann, told The Associated Press on Thursday that the backup defensive end and sometimes starter plans to test the market. Rhodes' agent, Todd France, told The Indianapolis Star that the Colts' second-leading rusher last season would do the same.
Calls to France on Thursday afternoon by The Associated Press weren't immediately returned.
The news came one day after the Colts officially released the record-setting Harrison to free up $6 million under the salary cap. Last week, Smith's agent, Thomas Mills, acknowledged the longtime punter also wouldn't be re-signed before the free-agent market opened.
"We are being impacted by the salary cap for the first time in 11 years because of the new cap rules, and that's not something we, quite frankly, planned for," Polian said Sunday during the NFL Scouting Combine. "As a result, we've got some issues with veterans."
Thursday's negotiations could dictate how much things will change next season, which will open with Jim Caldwell taking over the coaching reins from Tony Dungy, who retired in January. Caldwell already has replaced the defensive coordinator and special teams coach. Who he'll have on the field is still up in the air.
Harrison and Smith were among the longest-tenured Colts on the 2008 roster. All could be with new teams within days or weeks.
Rhodes' best season was his rookie year of 2001, when he rushed for 1,104 yards after he became the starter when Edgerrin James suffered a season-ending knee injury. He spent 2007 with the Oakland Raiders before returning to the Colts, for whom he had 538 yards and six touchdowns last season. Rhodes also caught 45 passes, including three for touchdowns.
Thomas, who replaced the injured Dwight Freeney in the starting lineup during the second half of the 2007 season, had a career-high three sacks in 2005 and a career-high 55 tackles in 2007.
Others who are unsigned include linebackers Tyjuan Hagler and Freddy Keiaho, cornerback Keiwan Ratliff, safety Matt Giordano and offensive lineman Dan Federkeil. All have started at least once over the past two seasons.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press