Good things don’t last forever. The NFL salary cap ensures that. The Colts know this first hand.

That's a wrap for Mavin in Indy. Happy trails.

That's a wrap for Mavin in Indy. Happy trails.

In 2006 the team couldn’t afford to resign Edgerrin James, who was coming off a 1,500-yard season.

On Tuesday, they were forced to do what was once unthinkable – cut Marvin Harrison. Cut the longest-tenured member of their team and arguably the second-best receiver of all time. The last member of the pre-Peyton Manning Era … sent packing.

Team president Bill Polian knew this day was coming. The long-term deal Harrison signed in 2004 reached its cap-hit peak ($13.4 million) this season. The only hope was Harrison – who turns 37 this year – would take a pay-cut. He didn’t.

Polian braced for this day by giving Reggie Wayne a long-term deal in 2006 and by drafting Anthony Gonzalez in 2007. The writing was on the wall.

Now the Colts will attempt to keep unrestricted free agent Jeff Saturday, a 10-year member of the squad. He has long been the glue of a unit that has kept Manning upright.

Problem is there’s no money for him either and unless Manning takes a last-minute pay-cut – which is about as likely as Tony Siragusa returning to shore up the Colts’ run defense – Saturday will probably be wearing another jersey next season too.

Polian prepared for this reality as well, drafting a pair of centers last April.

The way Polian runs things is a double-edged sword. He keeps the big stars in town, but arguably overpays them – see Dallas Clark, Bob Sanders, and Dwight Freeney – making others, particularly aging veterans, expendable.

More hard decisions are on the horizon. Marlin Jackson, Antoine Bethea, and Gary Brackett will all be free agents in 2010. Unfortunately for Brackett – a fan favorite and team captain – this season will likely be his last with the Colts. Ask Mike Peterson, Marcus Washington, David Thornton, or Cato June what happens to Colts linebackers when they enter free agency. Don’t let the door hit you.

In 2011, Dwight Freeney’s back-loaded contract will impose a bigger cap hit than Manning’s. Will a then 31-year-old speed-rushing defensive end be worth that, or will he get the Harrison treatment?

When Wayne’s contract expires following the 2011 season, will the then 33-year-old receiver be resigned or will he get the James treatment?

Manning is locked up through the 2012 season, but he’s set to hit the free agent market at the tender age of 37. This could never happen to Manning though, right? If the Colts’ recent track record has shown us anything it’s that nobody is above being shown the door … just ask Marvin Harrison.

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