DE Thomas, RB Rhodes are latest Colts veterans to test free agency

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.

Team president Bill Polian had warned this could be a tough offseason for the Colts.

"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.

The Colts did take care of two other players Thursday.

They offered 1-year contracts to defensive tackle Daniel Muir and running back Lance Ball, both of whom are restricted free agents. Agent Anthony Paige confirmed the tender offers Thursday in an e-mail to The Associated Press.

Muir played in six games last season after the Colts released former starter Ed Johnson following his arrest on a drug possession charge. The Colts claimed Muir off waivers from the Green Bay Packers last September.

Ball was signed to the Colts' practice squad in mid-October after Mike Hart suffered a season-ending knee injury. Ball was promoted to the active roster for the regular-season finale against the Tennessee Titans and had 13 carries for 83 yards.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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