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With 32.0 sacks over the past three seasons, DE Dwight Freeney is among the NFL's elite at his position. Accordingly, he's making $14 million this season for a team that doesn't know if Peyton Manning's $28 million is coming off the books or not.
In comparison, his book-end teammate DE Robert Mathis has 30.0 sacks over that same span, and will likely expect the kind of salary Freeney is making. If they franchise him for $10.6 million this season, it will open up negotiations for a long-term deal.
While $10.6 million is surely a bargain for a guaranteed 10.0 sacks per season, a long-term deal will likely cost the Colts somewhere between $13-$15 million a year.For a defense that needs help at linebacker, and an offense that trends towards rebuilding every day, it's hard to imagine that they would be paying $26 million between two players on an 11-man defense.
Throw in Manning's $28 million and what it would take to sign presumed first overall pick Andrew Luck, and four players of the same position would be making the majority of the money on the entire roster.