Indianapolis Colts: Dwight Freeney Is a Colt, Until He Isn't

Nate Dunlevy@NateDunlevyGuest ColumnistMarch 26, 2012

Colts General Manager Ryan Grigson was definitive in his declaration about Dwight Freeney on Monday.

"He's a Colt, period".

While Grigson's affirmation of Freeney's status with the team is nice, it also doesn't make much sense. Freeney is 32 years old, and in the last year of his contract with the Colts. Rumors were flying recently that Freeney was on the trading block.

It's easy to see why:

  • Age. At 32, Freeney still has good years ahead of him, but with the Colts in rebuilding mode and Freeney in the last year of his deal, it doesn't make sense for the Colts to re-sign him after this season.
  • Contract. Freeney is slated for a massive cap hit of nearly $19.5 million. However, $14 million of that is base salary which can be erased if Freeney isn't with the team come September.
  • Scheme. Freeney is a pure 4-3 end. With the Colts looking to move to a 3-4 system, Freeney just doesn't make sense.

The Colts have several options when it comes to the venerable sack-king. They can trade him, cut him, renegotiate with him, or just let him play out his deal.

Letting him play out a $14 million salary in the hopes of collecting a compensatory pick in 2014 simply doesn't make a lot of sense. No matter what Grigson declares publicly, the Colts would be foolish to keep Freeney under the present conditions.

Unfortunately for the Colts, everyone else in the league knows it. If Freeney was indeed on the market, even secretly, there doesn't appear to have been much interest. Teams know the Colts are unlikely to pay such a huge fee to one player when they have needs all over the roster. They may be waiting out the Colts, hoping Indianapolis cuts Freeney to save money.

Freeney was perhaps the second most important Colt of the last decade. His play on defense was the lynch-pin to a defense that was fearsome in 2005 and 2007. Injuries to Freeney in 2007 and 2009 likely cost Indianapolis at least one Super Bowl title.

If Freeney can't be moved for draft value, renegotiating his deal could dramatically lower his cap number and ensure his presence in Indianapolis for a few years, but the scheme question still remains. Will Chuck Pagano have enough use for Freeney to keep him in Indianapolis?

The Colts may find that after the start of training camp, some teams will be antsy to fork over a high pick for the "final piece" to a championship puzzle.

The draft is close now, so teams value their picks. But the market for Freeney could improve come August.

Perhaps Grigson should have said, "Freeney's a Colt, comma."

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