Plot Thickens for Simon

(Getty Images)

After months of being locked in a dispute with the Colts, Corey Simon reportedly learns that Indianapolis has activated him. Or did they? Another report now indicates that there was a "clerical error" at NFL.com and he's still on the team's PUP list. Either way, Freeney's deal opens the door for Simon's release. Find out why inside...

With a Monday deadline looming for franchise tagged free agents to sign a long-term deal, Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney gets a call on Thursday telling him that he's going to be the highest paid defensive player in the National Football League.

The six-year, $72 million deal -- which includes a $30 million signing bonus -- actually provides cap relief to the Colts of about $3.65 million dollars according to ESPN.com. He agrees in principle to the deal and heads to Indy on Friday to sign it.

Meanwhile, Colts defensive tackle Corey Simon has no idea if he's playing football this year or for what team he'll be playing if he does suit up. All Simon knows for sure is that he's been locked in a feud with his team for the past ten months or so over being placed on the non-football illness reserve list.

In early October, Colts President Bill Polian issued this statement:

"Today, we have placed Corey Simon on the NFL Non-Football Illness/Injury list. In deference to Corey's privacy and in compliance with federal medical privacy laws, we may not discuss the particulars of Corey's condition other than to say it is an illness not an injury and is unrelated to the knee surgery he had in August. It is not football-related. Fortunately, we are told it is not life-threatening, but it has severely limited Corey's ability to condition, practice or play and has been debilitating for him.

Tony Dungy, Bill Polian
(AP Photo)
We reached this decision reluctantly and only after extensive tests were run by our medical staff and many outside medical specialists, including those at the Mayo Clinic. Fortunately, Corey has shown some improvement in recent days, but none of the medical personnel we consulted believe he can safely return to football in the near future.

Corey now can devote himself to a complete and unhurried recovery. Our fervent hope is he will be ready to return to the field next season."

Since then, Simon reportedly won the first round of the dispute over having to pay back an $8 million option bonus. Still at stake though, was $1.9 million of salary from 2006 that the team didn't feel obligated to pay since they felt the illness was not related to football.

And then, according to a report in the Indianapolis Star, the team activated Simon on Thursday and he claimed he hadn't heard anything about it from the Colts. Since then, an ESPN report says that a "clerical error" at NFL.com caused an incorrect notation about Simon's status and he's still actually on the team's Physically Unable to Perform list.

Either way, the Freeney deal opens the door for Simon's release.

Freeney had just agreed to free up $3.65 million in cap space this year. Simon, who is scheduled to hit the team's cap for $7 million this year, can now be released with no cap hits in future years in exchange for a $9 million hit in 2007.

Do the math. The Colts can now release Simon and still be $1.65 better off in cap space than they were just a few days ago.

Why is it important to absorb that hit this year if the team has decided to part ways with Simon? After all, since it's after June 1st, they could choose to take just a $3 million hit this year and defer $6 million to next year's cap.

Well, that would be disasterous. And who would they spend the extra money on this year at this late date?

The Colts need the cap room for next year because of the huge number of big-name players that will hit unrestricted free agency in 2008. Here's just a few of the names for you: Bob Sanders, Dallas Clark, Jake Scott, Ryan Lilja and Tarik Glenn.

The Colts have consistently been masters at managing their cap, defying the critics who keep saying that "next year" they'll be paying the piper for these big contracts they've offered their top-tier players. And if this hand plays out the way it appears it's going to, the Colts not only locked up their top defensive player for the next six years in Freeney on Friday, they also just improved their chances of keeping a player like Bob Sanders or Dallas Clark next year by taking a big cap hit now should they follow up with the release of Corey Simon.

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