The youth movement is in full swing in Indianapolis.
The Colts announced on Friday that they have informed Dwight Freeney that they will not pursue a contract renewal, making the veteran linebacker a free agent. The team also released wide receiver Austin Collie outright.
Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star had the news on Twitter:
CONFIRMED: The Colts today have released Dwight Freeney and Austin Collie. More to come on indystar.com— BobKravitz (@bkravitz) February 15, 2013
The Colts confirmed the news with this post on their official team website.
There was some confusion with the way Kravitz phrased his original tweet, so he later clarified to confirm that Freeney was not released:
To be clearer, Freeney was set to become a free agent, so he wasn't released, just told he wouldn't be re-signed. Just to clear that up.— BobKravitz (@bkravitz) February 15, 2013
After an 11-year marriage between Freeney and the Colts that has included over 100 sacks, two Super Bowl appearances and one NFL championship, it appears the seven-time Pro Bowler's time in Indy is now officially over. There is an outside chance that he returns, but he will almost assuredly command more money on the free-agent market than the Colts are willing to offer.
Kareem Copeland of NFL.com reported in December that a Freeney-Colts divorce might be coming, and that assertion proved prophetic after the team made the announcement on Friday afternoon.
The release comes just over a week after Freeney announced that he wants to retire a Colt at the end of his playing career (also via Copeland).
Collie missed most of the 2012 season with a knee injury, but still has a lot of promise. The young wideout had great chemistry with Peyton Manning from 2009-10 and put up some impressive numbers in that time. He finishes his Colts career with 173 receptions and 16 touchdowns.
But the big story here is Freeney, who will go down as one of the all-time greats in the franchise's storied history. He is currently 21st on the all-time sacks list with 107.5 and is also a three-time first-team All-Pro selection.
Have we seen the last of Dwight Freeney in Indianapolis?
Freeney helped ease the loss of Manning and provide stability on the defense for rookie quarterback Andrew Luck and the rest of this young roster, helping lead the team to an 11-5 record and wild-card berth in the NFL playoffs. The Colts lost to eventual-champion Baltimore in the first round.
There will be a mourning period in Indianapolis as one of the city's brightest stars is not set to move on, but the team's young talent should help ease the pain as the Colts prepare for free agency and the 2013 draft.