Diem signs seven-year deal to stay with Colts

INDIANAPOLIS - The Indianapolis Colts signed right tackle Ryan Diem to a seven-year contract Monday, another step in keeping their high-scoring offense together for one more season.

The next move could come Tuesday, with the Colts expected to place the franchise designation on Pro Bowl running back Edgerrin James.

Diem's deal kept him from becoming an unrestricted free agent in March. Salary figures were not immediately available, but the salary-cap friendly deal was believed to include a signing bonus of about $12 million.

"This is the best of all worlds," Diem's agent Cliff Brady said. "He got the team he wanted, the deal he wanted and it worked out real well."

The biggest question left on offense is James, who has not spoken with the Indianapolis media since the Colts' 20-3 second-round playoff loss at New England.

James' agent, Scott Parker, has not returned phone messages left at his office by The Associated Press, and the Colts also have not commented.

On Dec. 9, one day after re-signing record-setting wide receiver Marvin Harrison, Colts owner Jim Irsay said he would franchise James if a deal wasn't completed before Tuesday's 4 p.m. Eastern deadline. That move would guarantee James a salary of slightly more than $6 million next season. A few other details must still be worked out.

But the Colts did work out the details with Diem, who has started each of the last three seasons for the Colts and has proven one of the team's most versatile linemen.

He started 21 of 31 games in 2001 and 2002, mostly at right guard, then moved to right tackle in 2003 and beat out Adam Meadows for the starting job. Diem missed three games in 2003 because of injury and started all 16 games last season.

Brady said that although he had heard other teams were interested, Diem didn't want to move in part because his wife attends veterinary school at nearby Purdue and could finish her degree next spring.

More important for the Colts, it keeps the offensive line in place.

"I think it's huge because you have your left tackle, center and right tackle set," Brady said. "You have receivers set, and the only thing that's missing is the guards."

Left guard Rick DeMulling could still become an unrestricted free agent March 2, and the Colts other starting guard, Tupe Peko, is a restricted free agent.

DeMulling's agent, Ken Staninger, said last week he had not yet begun discussing a new deal with the Colts.

Several players with salary-cap numbers, such as tight end Marcus Pollard, defensive end Brad Scioli and kicker Mike Vanderjagt, might be asked to restructure their deals even though the Colts now have room to maneuver under the salary cap.

Pollard, for one, has restructured his deal in the past.

"If it was anything like that, it would have to be mutually beneficial," Glenn Schwartzman, Pollard's agent, said last week. "We don't necessarily want to do that unless it's the best deal for us. He's been supportive of it in the past."

But for Diem and the Colts' offense, it's just one less thing to worry about as the two-time defending AFC South champions try to win their third straight division crown.

"All things being equal, he wanted to stay," Brady said. "So it's great he could get a deal done at the place he wanted to play."