The Indianapolis Colts are saying goodbye to a lot more than just Peyton Manning.
The team announced sweeping cuts on Friday, releasing running back Joseph Addai, linebacker Gary Brackett, defensive back Melvin Bullitt, tight end Dallas Clark and quarterback Curtis Painter. The players spent a combined 32 years with the Colts, piling up yards, tackles, touchdowns and Pro Bowl appearances.
"These players all made tremendous contributions to the organization and will forever be members of the Colts family," owner Jim Irsay said. "It's always difficult to make these decisions, which the nature of the salary cap requires."
Manning is gone, too, released earlier this week by Irsay, who had warned that the Colts would be making a lot more changes. The Colts will look nothing like the team that went 2-14 last season — or the team that made the playoffs all those years with Manning under centre.
Irsay has already fired coach Jim Caldwell and Bill and Chris Polian, the father-son front office team. Bill Polian was the architect of four Super Bowl teams in Buffalo, though his first championship ring came with the Colts in 2006.
Things unravelled this season as Manning missed the entire season with a neck injury after signing a five-year, $90 million US deal last July. The Sept. 8 procedure was his third neck surgery in 19 months, and the Colts went through three different quarterbacks, including Painter, before getting their first win.
The sorry performance last season landed the Colts the No. 1 pick in next month's draft, a choice the team is expected to use on Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck.
Whether it's Luck or someone else, the Colts will have a completely new look in many ways on both sides of the ball.
Addai piled up 4,453 yards rushing and 39 touchdowns over six seasons in Indianapolis, making the Pro Bowl in 2007. Clark spent nine years with the Colts, setting team records and creating a matchup nightmare for opposing defences as he caught 427 passes for 4,887 yards (11.4 avg.) and 46 touchdowns. He became the second tight end in NFL history to tally 100-plus receptions and was named to the Pro Bowl in 2009.
Brackett and Bullitt were team captains.
Brackett spent nine seasons in Indy and totalled 754 tackles (448 solo), 4.0 sacks and 12 interceptions, fifth in franchise history among linebackers. Bullitt, a five-year veteran of the Colts, had 189 tackles (122 solo), seven interceptions, two forced fumbles and seven passes defenced.
Painter, a sixth-round draft pick in 2009, played sparingly until last season, when he made eight starts as the Colts desperately tried to find a solution to their Manning-less offence. In all, he was 140 of 271 for 1,624 yards, six touchdowns, 11 interceptions and a 60.6 quarterback rating.
"These days are always difficult and emotional," new general manager Ryan Grigson said. "The Colts organization will be bidding farewell to a terrific group of men who have made such an impact over their years of service on the field and in the community. I wish them nothing but the best as they take the next steps in their careers."