The Indianapolis Colts have signed starting strongside linebacker Tyjuan Hagler to a one-year contract extension through 2008, a move that keeps the three-year veteran off the restricted free agent market.
The deal is worth $1.417 million, which is the same amount of the restricted free agent qualifying offer the Colts would have made to Hagler before the start of the free agent signing period in the spring.
Without the extension, other teams could have pursued Hagler and perhaps signed him to an offer sheet, which would have forced the Colts to either match it or pass on it and allow the three-year veteran to depart. Barring another extension, Hagler will be eligible for unrestricted free agency in the spring of 2009.
By retaining Hagler, the Colts assured that the trio of starting linebackers from a defense that statistically ranked No. 3 in the league this season, will return intact for 2008.
Hagler, 26, assumed the starting strongide job in late September, but then suffered a pinched nerve in his neck that forced him to miss four straight games. Hagler appeared in 13 games in 2007, and started eight contests, registering 53 tackles, one sack, one forced fumble and one pass defensed.
He began the season as the backup to weakside linebacker Freddy Keiaho, but then began working at the strong spot and subsequently bumped Rocky Boiman from the starting lineup. Boiman had replaced regular starter Rob Morris, who sustained a season-ending knee injury in a Sept. 30 victory over Denver Broncos.
Although Hagler seems a bit undersized for the strongside position, he is a defender who heeds the credo of coach Tony Dungy to "play fast," and as a result, was productive in his first season as a starter.
The former University of Cincinnati standout was a fifth-round choice in the 2005 draft. He missed his entire rookie season, spending it on the physically unable to perform list with a sports hernia. Hagler played in only nine games in 2006, with seven tackles.
Len Pasquarelli covers the NFL for ESPN.com.