Time brought many changes to Indianapolis, but nothing can change the impact Freeney had on a championship team.
The Colts announced via press release today that Freeney won't be re-signed. His contract expired at the end of the season and the 32-year old end will hit the open market.
Owner Jim Irsay said of Freeney:
Few people have meant as much to the success of the Indianapolis Colts as Dwight Freeney. He has been a dominant player, which is all the more impressive considering his size for his position, and he has won a lot of games for this franchise.
Dwight was an artist, a joy to watch, and the dedication he put toward his craft was a rare quality. We will miss him, but look forward to his future induction into the Hall of Fame and Colts Ring of Honor.
Freeney's impact was felt in Indianapolis from his rookie season on. The Colts made the playoffs in 10 of his 11 seasons in the league. The seven-time Pro Bowler and three-time All Pro is the franchise's all-time leader in sacks with 107.5.
Freeney likely needs another 20 to 30 sacks to improve his odds of making the Hall of Fame, but those won't be coming with a horseshoe on the helmet.
Freeney is a likable star and always quick to reach out to fans. At the peak of his powers, only Peyton Manning had more impact on whether the team won or lost than Freeney did.
His injuries in 2007 and 2009 possibly cost the team two more titles.
The 2007 Colts had a fearsome defense until a Lisfranc injury cut short Freeney's season. In the playoffs, the Colts were unable to generate any pass rush and gave up 28 points in a home game.
With minutes to play in the 2009 AFC Championship game, Freeney turned an ankle chasing Mark Sanchez. Though he did play in the Super Bowl two weeks later, he was ineffective in the second half after a long halftime and ensuing on-side kick recovered by the Saints.
In the second half of that game, the Colts defense forced only a single third down as Drew Brees operated with no discernible pressure.
In his prime, Freeney was a terror off the edge, ringing up 43 forced fumbles in his career. Despite his considerable skills, a position change and an ankle injury rendered him ineffective for most of 2012.
Despite a strong return to form late in the year, Freeney's 2012 season represented a major miscalculation by the front office. Unable to deal the star pass-rusher, they chose to pay him $14 million for just five sacks.
After deciding not to negotiate with Freeney, Indianapolis now must add a pass-rusher to the lengthy list of glaring needs they have on one of the worst defenses in football.
The Colts will find other pass-rushers better suited for the 3-4 scheme favored by Chuck Pagano, but they are unlikely to ever truly replace Freeney.
Dominance is hard to come by.
Quote courtesy of the Indianapolis Colts PR department via direct press release.