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EDGERRIN JAMES Ex-Colt bolts to Arizona desert


Published: Mon, March 13, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.


The two-time NFL rushing champion's first-year compensation will be $14.75 million.
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) -- Edgerrin James ran off to the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, agreeing to a four-year, $30 million contract with one of the NFL's weakest teams.
James, who became a free agent after seven seasons with the Colts, knew there was little chance he would return to Indianapolis when the season ended in a loss to Pittsburgh in the AFC divisional round.
Last month, Colts president Bill Polian admitted he was taking a gamble by letting James hit the free-agent market.
And now James is gone after setting team records for rushing attempts (2,188), yards (9,226) and touchdowns (64).
Likes the situation
"It's a great situation. All they really need is a back," James said.
"They've got an MVP quarterback [Kurt Warner], they've got two Pro Bowl receivers. They got a back and they're going to shore up the offensive line."
Then he added, "OK it's a risk. But hey, I'm a poker player. You can take it to the river. I'm not scared to make a change. I'm not scared to go out on a limb and try something different."
Polian could have kept James by using the franchise tag on him for the second straight year.
Instead, Polian, decided against the move, which would have increased James' salary next season to more than $10 million.
That made James, a four-time Pro Bowl choice, one of the most attractive free agents available when free agency opened Saturday.
"I'm happy for him," Colts coach Tony Dungy said in Indianapolis, where he was watching the Big Ten championship game.
"He was fantastic for us the time we were here, we wish we could have kept him but you can't keep everyone."
James will receive $11.5 million in bonus money, making his first year compensation $14.75 million, according to his agent, Drew Rosenhaus. The remaining $15.25 million will be paid out over the final three years of the deal.
A comparison
Last week, NFL rushing champ Shaun Alexander signed an eight-year, $62 million deal with Seattle that will pay him $18.5 million guaranteed over the first two years.
It was clear James wanted a fresh start.
He was looking for a long-term deal, something the Colts weren't willing to give him.
After Indianapolis placed the franchise tag on him last year, Polian gave James' agent permission to look for a trade but there were no takers -- even when Polian said the asking price was less than a first-round pick.
But Dungy credited James with playing through his disappointment and turning in a Pro Bowl season.
James and the Colts had clashed before.
When he skipped a mandatory minicamp in 2002, Polian said publicly that it was because James wanted to renegotiate his contract.
James contended, however, that he was still rehabbing his injured left knee in Miami and couldn't have participated in the workouts anyway.
Other factors
His freewheeling personality also created some problems. Last summer, James said he wouldn't travel with the team to Japan for a preseason game because he didn't want to sit on a plane that long.
But he backed off that stance during training camp and made the trip anyway, at the urging of team officials.
At the Super Bowl, James said he hoped to play for a team that wanted him.
When next season starts, he'll be taking handoffs from Warner instead of Peyton Manning.
The two-time NFL rushing champion teamed with Manning to make the Colts one of the best teams in the league.
James helped Indianapolis make the playoffs six times in his seven seasons, missing the postseason in 2001 when James sat out the final 10 games after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.
James has been one of the most productive running backs in the NFL after the Colts took him with the fourth overall pick in 1999.
He has rushed for more than 1,000 yards in six of his eight NFL seasons, and ran for more than 1,500 yards in each of the last two.


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