With Lilja out, Colts thin at guard

Heading toward 2010, the Colts figured they only needed minor tinkering to solidify their chances to make it back to the Super Bowl.

We knew some of that would be tied to changes on the offensive line.

Alex Marvez of FoxSports.com reports the Colts are releasing Ryan Lilja, their starting left guard. They will avoid what I understand to be $1.83 million in bonus money by doing so. His total salary for 2010 was scheduled to be in the $3 million range.

That’s three veterans -- Raheem Brock, Jim Sorgi and Lilja -- cut by the Colts at a savings of $2.605 million in bonuses.

Maybe those guys saw it coming, but my guess is in a salary-cap-free year they weren’t heading toward spring fearful about their job security.

The message from Bill Polian: We’re not paying for guys we feel have dropped off or aren’t going to be contributors commensurate with their money.

[UPDATE: 8:26 p.m.: Mike Chappell's report says that the Colts actually paid Lilja his bonus, which is quite a classy move. It certainly also softens my financial interpretation above.]

Kelvin Hayden's going to get a $2.25 million bonus and Robert Mathis $1 million. It appears Ryan Diem will collect $1 million he’s due as well.

As for guard -- let’s put it right at the top of the team’s need list, where a better balanced left tackle is also a need.

With Lilja, a complete class act by the way, gone, Indianapolis’ guard roster reads like this: Kyle DeVan, Mike Pollak, Andy Alleman and Jamey Richard.

DeVan, who finished the season as the starter on the right, and the just-signed Alleman were picked up off the street. Pollak is on the verge of busting as a second-rounder from 2008. Richard is a seventh-rounder from 2008.

We’re expecting Pete Metzelaars to take over for the retired Howard Mudd as offensive line coach. It’s clear as ever he’ll be working with some new young blood.

Lilja's agent, Craig Domann, gave Chappell this explanation, which is a flashing signal indicating the team's biggest pending change:

"They said they want to go bigger and apparently are going to get people who fit that philosophy."