INDIANAPOLIS – Hakeem Nicks took the best bet he could find in free agency.
He's promising to cash in. Less than 24 hours after the former Giants receiver agreed to a one-year deal with Indianapolis, Nicks said he's so confident in his own skills that it was an easy decision.
"I didn't want to get myself in a long-term situation that I didn't like. This is the best situation for me, a great organization and a chance to come in and show them what I can do and what I can bring to the table," he said during a conference call Saturday. "I believe it's going to pay off."
The Colts are counting on it.
A year ago, they risked about $2.5 million on another veteran free agent with a first-round pedigree to help Indy's still young receiving contingent. But Darrius Heyward-Bey caught only 29 passes for 309 yards and one touchdown and was relegated mostly to special teams duty by the end of the season.
This time, they may have an even bigger need at receiver.
Perennial Pro Bowler Reggie Wayne is trying to return from a torn ACL in his right knee at age 35, and young tight end Dwayne Allen is trying to come back from a hip injury that put him on season-ending injured reserve in September. Heyward-Bey is now a free agent, too, and is unlikely to return.
That leaves Indy with emerging star T.Y. Hilton, LaVon Brazill and Griff Whalen — who were all part of Indy's 2012 rookie class — and Da'Rick Rogers, an undrafted rookie in 2013 who wound up giving the Colts a late season boost after Wayne's injury.
Nicks seems like a good fit.
Though he's already played five seasons in the NFL, Nicks is still just 26 years old. His resume includes back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in 2010 and 2011, the second of which came during the Giants' Super Bowl-winning season. In 2012, he missed three games with injuries, causing his numbers to drop. He hobbled again last season when he caught 56 passes for 896 yards but finished without a touchdown catch for the first time in his career.
He declined to go into detail about what happened in 2013.
Nicks indicated there was no lack of interest from other teams. Nicks said he turned down an offer from his hometown Carolina Panthers to play with Andrew Luck and a Colts team that has made the playoffs each of the last two seasons.
The Giants, Nicks said, did not make a bid.
"They actually didn't, but we had already talked prior to that," Nicks said when asked if there was an offer from New York. "Still good relationships there. I've got much love for the Giants organization. Like I told Jerry Reese this morning when he congratulated me through text message, I told him 'Thanks for the opportunity, thanks for putting me in this game.'
"It was a fun run in New York and I cherish every moment of it. Business is business and you've got to move on. My career is going to keep on going."
The biggest question in Indy isn't about his skills. General manger Ryan Grigson said Friday in a statement he has no doubt Nicks can still play at a high level.
Instead, it's about which number Nicks will wear.
The former North Carolina star has always liked the No. 88, which was last worn in Indy by Hall of Fame finalist Marvin Harrison. Former general manager Bill Polian adamantly acknowledged that number wouldn't be worn again by a Colts player during his tenure. Polian was fired after a 2-14 season in 2011.
While Nicks acknowledged he would prefer his old number, he's more concerned with showing the football world he can regain the form that enticed the Giants to make him a first-round pick in 2009 — making his gamble pay off.
"It looks like a three-headed monster to me. Last time I was in that situation, I won a Super Bowl so I'm excited about that," Nicks said when asked about playing with Wayne and Hilton. "Part of being a free agent is making the choice where you want to go. We all know I'm a football player, and I feel like this is the best fit for me."
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