The Indianapolis Colts recently confirmed that they'd be parting ways with All-Pro defensive end/outside linebacker Dwight Freeney. It was a move that many expected, but Freeney himself was a little surprised when it happened.
According to the Indianapolis Star, Freeney said that he expected the Colts would offer him a contract that he could play on for a few years until he retires. In other words, Freeney wanted to retire with the team that he's spent his entire 11-year career with.
"I'll be honest with you: I was surprised the way it happened," he said Wednesday in a phone interview with The Indianapolis Star. "I figured they would offer me something low and I would just accept it, go the last few years and retire a Colt."
That's actually a really interesting quote from Freeney. It's not necessarily that he didn't have a drive to go and compete elsewhere or earn another big contract, but more so that he seemed happy to take the hometown discount, before it was ever even offered.
You rarely see players going out there and admitting that they were willing to play on a smaller contract, especially when they're bound to hit free agency on March 12. Obviously, Freeney wasn't going to receive anything remotely close to the six-year, $72 million deal that wrapped up this season, and it's clear that he didn't expect to.
He did have a down year in 2012, with just five sacks and 12 tackles, but he was dealing with injuries and a position change. That's right, 11 years into his career and the Colts converted him from a 4-3 defensive end to a 3-4 outside linebacker.
Freeney has been one of the most skilled pass rushers of the past decade, and changing his position may have been necessary for the Colts, but at the time, most speculated that Freeney wouldn't respond well to the change on the field.
And now the Colts are going to move on without him.
Still, Freeney could be a very effective option for some teams, namely those running a 4-3 defense. It's worth noting that Freeney had 8.5 sacks in 2011 and 10 sacks in 2010. He's not that far removed from being a top-flight player in the NFL, and his seven seasons with double-digit sacks makes for one of the best resumes in the NFL.
Freeney did go on to say that he is "a little disappointed," about the Colts not offering him a contract. Judging by his comments, he must feel that he only has a couple years left in the NFL, but all signs seem to indicate that those years could be productive years and it wouldn't be surprising to see him getting a deal with significant playing time for another team in 2013.