INDIANAPOLIS – Reggie Wayne never wanted to leave Indianapolis.
He won’t have to.
The longtime receiver has agreed in principle to a new deal that could keep him in a Colts uniform for the rest of his career, a person with knowledge of the deal told The Associated Press on Tuesday but who requested anonymity because the details were still being worked out. Wayne is expected to sign his contract Wednesday.
For the rebuilding Colts, it’s a rare move to keep a prized veteran. Last week, the Colts released four-time league MVP Peyton Manning, defensive captains Gary Brackett and Melvin Bullitt, record-setting tight end Dallas Clark and former Pro Bowl running back Joseph Addai.
All of those players missed significant time over the past two seasons with injuries. Wayne, however, did not.
“REGGIE! REGGIE! REGGIE!” team owner Jim Irsay wrote on his Twitter account Tuesday night.
Wayne led all Colts receivers with 75 receptions and 960 yards, but it marked the first time he failed to reach the 1,000-yard mark since his third season in the league.
At 33 years old, some thought it was an indication that Wayne was slowing down.
But the Colts disagreed.
After failing to keep free agent receiver Pierre Garcon, who signed a five-year deal worth $42.5 million with Washington earlier Tuesday, the Colts opted to keep their most sure-handed receiver.
Had the Colts lost Garcon, Wayne and the oft-injured Anthony Gonzalez all in free agency, Manning’s successor would have come into Indy with Austin Collie, Quan Cosby, Jarred Fayson, Jeremy Ross and Blair White as the only receivers on the roster.
Keeping Wayne means the next quarterback, presumably Stanford’s Andrew Luck, will have another solid option.
Wayne never wanted to leave.
“I said if this is going to be the last game, I want to go out with a bang. It was great,” he said after catching the winning score in last season’s home finale against Houston. “Hopefully, I’ll be back but you never know.”
Those doubts persisted when it became apparent the Colts were not going to keep Manning.
Some thought the franchise quarterback and his favorite receiver would sign with another team as a package deal.
Instead, the receiver decided to stay put in a community where he was embraced as the second favorite Reggie in town, behind only Reggie Miller of the NBA’s Pacers, and a community that Wayne often said loved him back.
“I don’t know what’s going on with all that,” Wayne said in December. “We’ll see what happens.”