Colts reach agreement with defensive tackle Simon

There remain a few incidental elements to be addressed, but ESPN.com confirmed Wednesday night through sources close to the negotiations that the Indianapolis Colts have agreed in principle with defensive tackle Corey Simon on virtually all the major financial components of a contract, and that an agreement could be officially struck as early as Thursday morning.

In fact, two Colts players told ESPN.com on Wednesday night that they were apprised 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night had remained in the hunt for Simon, who became a free agent on Sunday night when the Philadelphia Eagles rescinded the "franchise" designation placed on him six months ago.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 teams that had stayed in contact with agent Roosevelt Barnes, but which did not get involved in substantive negotiations.

It was Indianapolis, however, which ratcheted up discussions and which is much further along in negotiations and poised to consummate what will likely be a five-year deal that could make Simon one of the NFL's highest paid defensive tackles.

Beyond conceding that his client was "very close" to making a decision on where he will resume his career, Barnes declined comment on Wednesday night.

Landing the five-year veteran would be 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 that 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, would 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, would 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 is not altogether stunning, given the depth that 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 that 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 on 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 hereInsider.