The surprise, of course, would have been if the Colts told Dwight Freeney they wanted to talk contract.
It’s been presumed since Ryan Grigson took over as GM and Chuck Pagano was named coach that Indianapolis wouldn’t remarry Freeney after eating a $19 million cap hit in the final year of his deal.
Freeney still has pass-rushing skills. But he turns 33 on Tuesday, and he’s not suited for the 3-4 that Pagano runs.
Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star said the Colts have told Freeney and often-injured receiver Austin Collie that they won’t look to re-sign them. The team released an announcement regarding Freeney a bit later.
“Few people have meant as much to the success of the Indianapolis Colts as Dwight Freeney,” owner and CEO Jim Irsay said in the news release. “He has been a dominant player, which is all the more impressive considering his size for his position, and he has won a lot of games for this franchise. Dwight was an artist, a joy to watch, and the dedication he put toward his craft was a rare quality. We will miss him, but look forward to his future induction into the Hall of Fame and Colts Ring of Honor.”
And so Freeney will explore free agency for the first time.
He might find limited opportunity. I’ve speculated the ideal scenario would be a 4-3 turf team that plays indoors.
How many teams fit that bill? The Cowboys and Falcons jump to mind.
Wherever he lands, he’s going to make far less money. Guys his age coming off 12-tackle, five-sack seasons don’t get big money, or lengthy deals. Some will regard him as a bit fragile. He's not going to be a big part of a team's run-stopping effort.
But if he’s willing to take an incentive-laden deal, he can do fine.
"I think if you limit his snaps and mostly play him on passing downs, a la John Abraham nowadays, I think he can still be an effective pass-rusher," said Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. "Playing in a dome on a team that scores a lot of points (like Abraham in Atlanta) also would help quite a bit."
Freeney could offer a new team with younger pass-rushers a degree of leadership, but I believe it would be more in a "watch-me style" than in an "I’ll-teach-you" manner.
Freeney was a tremendous player for the Colts for 11 seasons, recording 107.5 sacks. He was an integral part of a team that was a constant playoff presence, getting to two Super Bowls and winning one.
His name will be in the team’s ring of honor in short order, and he’ll always be a venerated player in Colts history.