Indianapolis Colts free agent focus: linebacker Jerrell Freeman
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Jan. 29, 2016) – The Indianapolis Colts already are in the process of putting a season of discontent behind them, and ensuring it doesn’t repeat itself.
Foremost on the team’s “to-do’’ list is determining which of its own players whose contracts expire in early-March merit re-signing. More than a dozen players, including the franchise’s all-time scoring leader (Adam Vinatieri) and six others who started at least six games, will become unrestricted free agents unless they sign a new contract before March 9.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll take a capsule look at a few of the more significant free-agents-to-be.
Jerrell Freeman, linebacker
- ’15 games/starts: 13/13
- ’15 salary: $2.536 million
- Case for re-signing: Freeman has been a defensive fixture since general manager Ryan Grigson signed him out of the Canadian Football League in January 2012. He’s started 57 of a possible 64 regular-season games and been the team’s most complete linebacker. He’s solid in run support (478 total tackles, including at least 100 in three of four seasons) and one of the better in the league in coverage as a nickel ‘backer.
Freeman has four career interceptions and returned two for touchdowns. What might have been his last game for the Colts – the 30-24 win over Tennessee – was one of his more impactful. Freeman had eight tackles, including two for loss, two sacks and an interception he returned 23 yards for a touchdown that proved to be the deciding points. He also provides a spark when used in the various blitz packages. Freeman has 12 career sacks.
- Case against: The only hesitancy in re-signing Freeman is what it will take. He’s made it clear his preference is to remain in Indy, but shouldn’t take less from the Colts than he might command on the free-agent market.
It’s always risky to compare players and contracts, but Freeman would be wise to review what the Colts used to sign free-agent linebackers D’Qwell Jackson in 2014 and Erik Walden in ’13. They gave Jackson a four-year, $22 million deal that included an $11 million signing bonus. Walden received a four-year, $16 million contract.
Jackson has led the team in tackles in each of the last two seasons and was named to his first Pro Bowl in ’14. Walden has collected 124 tackles and added 12 sacks in three seasons, including a career-high six sacks in ’14.
But neither possesses the all-around skills of Freeman. And let’s not forget, Freeman is 29.
- Projection: A tough call, but he should be retained if common ground can be found on a multi-year contract. The wild card in the mix is the complete overhaul of the defensive coaching staff. Coordinator Ted Monachino was the Baltimore Ravens’ linebackers coach and new linebackers coach Jim Herrmann held a similar position with the New York Jets and New York Giants. Each undoubtedly will have serious input on personnel evaluation and decisions on defense.
One caveat: Grigson has a special place in his heart for Freeman. He was Grigson’s first acquisition in 2012 after being named GM.
- Quotable: “(The decision is) not my call,’’ Freeman told Colts.com. “All I can do is go out there, play ball and let the business side play out. You know me, I’d love to finish out my career here.
“I played out the whole (original) contract, got the (restricted) tender and now I’m just free. I don’t know if it’s scary. It’s just different.’’