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Colts focused on developing youth, no longer signing aging players

INDIANAPOLIS -- There were some unhappy Indianapolis Colts fans when I responded to a tweet asking if the team had any interest in Dwight Freeney after he was spotted on a flight from Phoenix to Indianapolis late last week.

One person responded, “Cut [Trent] Cole and sign freeney. Cole brings nothing to the table.”

Another person tweeted, “what young pass rushers? lol they're delusional.”

I could see the Colts thinking about adding Freeney if this was last year when they were trying to make a run at the Super Bowl. The Colts signed aging players like Andre Johnson and Todd Herremans and thought they could still contribute in some form. The Colts have plenty of uncertainty when it comes to their pass rush after they only had 35 sacks last season. Freeney had eight sacks in just 11 games with the Arizona Cardinals last season.

But times have changed for Indianapolis because its taking a different approach with its roster. They want to develop their team through the draft. That became obvious back in March when you heard crickets from them during the start of free agency. That’s why they used half of their eight draft picks on offensive linemen rather than attempt to sign somebody like Alex Mack.

Owner Jim Irsay gave an indication of how things would be when I interviewed him in early February. He said the next few drafts would be important for the franchise as they focused on building their roster internally.

Another factor in the Colts likely shying away from Freeney -- outside of his age -- is that they want players who can play effectively on first and second down. If the Colts are going to have a player that’s used mainly as a third-down pass-rusher it’s going to be Robert Mathis. The Colts can also have some of their young linebackers double up by playing on special teams. Freeney wouldn’t be playing special teams.

Here’s a look at the linebackers -- outside and inside -- currently on the Colts’ roster under the age of 30:

Trevor Bates (22)

Earl Okine (26)

Junior Sylvestre (24)

Ron Thompson (22)

Sio Moore (26)

Antonio Morrison (21)

Amarlo Herrera (24)

Nate Irving (27)

Edwin Jackson (24)