I've been pretty clear about what I thought the Colts should do with Dwight Freeney.
In case you're too lazy to click the link, I've been a big proponent of letting the Classic Colt walk in free agency. The logical reasons are all there, it makes sense. He doesn't fit well, he's aging, and there are better targets out there.
Then there was some talk of the Colts possibly re-signing Freeney, and I was scared they might. I was scared they'd pass up the chance to pick up a younger, more natural fit at the position, holding on to the past.
But last week they announced that they'll let the 33-year old pass rusher go. I let out a sigh of relief. The Colts wouldn't make the mistake I so feared, letting nostalgia and past accomplishments cloud their judgment.
But now, I kind of wish they did.
I know, I know... I'm soft.
But after reading the comments from Freeney after he found out he would not be re-signed, I started to waver.
I'll be honest with you: I was surprised the way it happened, I figured they would offer me something low and I would just accept it, go the last few years and retire a Colt. So I guess a little disappointed...Coach Pagano came in and they could have gotten rid of me before (2012) started; new scheme, different position. But they gave me an opportunity to help the team and stay where I’ve always been.”
My first thought is that Freeney's playing the political, just saying anything now because it won't matter. It very well may have been just that.
But the thoughts kept coming. And I couldn't get Freeney's comments out of my mind.
"I figured they would offer me something low and I would just accept it, go the last few years and retire a Colt."
Is this really the way Freeney was thinking it would happen?
Was he willing to take a significant pay cut, willing to stay in the 3-4, even willing to maybe mentor a rookie OLB/DE hybrid?
I suppose we'll never really know.
But nevertheless, the unceremonial dumping of a franchise legend that is all-too familiar just doesn't sit right with the fan in me.
The analyst, the part of me that pretends to be impartial, he's been arguing for this move. But the fan in me was expecting, or maybe even hoping, that the Colts would stick with the aging vet who got better as the season went on.
Because then I'd get to see that spin move again.
Then I'd get to see the quickest first step in the NFL line up in Colt blue for a couple more years.
Because then I'd avoid what I had to go through when Peyton Manning was cut last season.
Would it have been so bad to allow Freeney to retire as a Colt? Would it have been that hard to fit him in?
I don't know what the Colts' plans are. Maybe I should be ecstatic because they're one step closer to possibly bringing in Anthony Spencer, my 2013 free agency man-crush.
But I can't see that right now.
All I can see is another all-time great let go, when it sounds like he wanted to stay and retire a Colt. As a fan, that's how it is supposed to be. Your all-time greats are supposed to be drafted, get a couple paydays, have a few great moments and eventually retire and ride into the sunset with a rousing video montage playing in the background.
Throwing in a "get released" or "let walk in free agency" kills the magic.
I shouldn't be thinking about this as much as I am. It was an expected move, a DESIRED move and one that will probably be the best move for the future of the franchise.
So why can't I stop thinking about it?
Of course, I have to wonder if they were either sparing him the insult of a contract not worthy of his talents or preventing him from having to be the one to make the choice by rejecting a low ball offer. People will say I am reading too much into this, but, then again, this is the only team in recent memory that cuts a player (Peyton) with a joint player/president press conference in which all parties are in tears.
We don't know what "something low" means. But I bet his agent would have had something to say too. I said from the beginning - what would we pay for a situational third and long pass rusher? Then make him that offer. We'd be no worse off than we are now if he said no thank you. Maybe it's best not to think about it sometimes.
Could it be that they definitely did want him gone before 2012, but realized he was due the largest chunk of his well-earned contract.
Keeping him on the team allows you to see if the fit turns out positively and it just "clicks". If it doesn't, a hall of fame Colt still gets paid his due, and you let him choose where he wants to go for the tail of his career.
It sucks, but at least they didn't shame him more by dumping him just for money reasons last year. It softens the blow for me just a bit when I think about it going down like that.
@coltsjunkie44 If it was not for the guaranteed contract, the Colts never would have subjected the one of the all time great pass rushing 4-3 DE to the farce of attempting to convert to being a 3-4 OLB. Both Freeney and the Colts deserve credit for making the best out of an awkward situation and sparing us the Albert Haynesworth style theatrics. Jim Irsay understood what was a stake when he decided to move to a 3-4 defense. I doubt Irsay lost any sleep paying Freeney megabucks for a position he was ill suited for given how well Freeney served the Colts in the past, liking gutting out the 2009 Super Bowl with a very bum ankle.
You can't stop thinking about it because the Colts handling of Freeney makes absolutely no sense.
First last year, they just paid him his 14 mil, with no effort to renegotiate or extend his contract or anything. There was no way he was ever going to be worth that.. regardless of the system or if he was healthy the whole season..
Then now, they don't even make him an offer of any kind? Maybe #93 wouldn't really have signed a discount deal, but why not at least see?
(For Freeney, this will probably end up being a good thing. As I predict he will go to some 4-3 team that will successfully utilize his talents, and it will give him a better chance of racking up the sacks he needs to get into the Hall of Fame.)
But for me as a Colts fan, it sucks. And if Freeney was really willing to play for the Colts for 3 or 4 million a year... there is no way he would not be worth that.
@DougEngland Grigson had no leverage to renegotiate. Freeney had no incentive to accept less than a guaranteed $14 mil and Grigson didn't want to commit to more until they knew Freeney could play OLB. So the choice was either cut Freeney (and promote Jerry Hughes *shudder*) or hideously overpay Freeney for a year and see if he turns out to be the answer at OLB for four more years.
As it turns out, Freeney doesn't play OLB that well. So paying him OMG $14 MIL in a rebuilding year was still better than committing to more $$ on a multi-year deal. Maybe they should have just cut him but it's not immediately obvious that there was anyone available who could have done better.
@squirrel @DougEngland Except that $14 million wasn't guaranteed. His cap hit was $19 million, of which only $5 million was guaranteed. The Colts should have traded Freeney well before the draft (if they could) and used those savings to build a better team. Or cut him and do the same. It was the right move and would have "ripped off the band-aid" so to speak of the aging core, instead of dragging it out another year.
The Colts could have then just allowed Hughes to sink or swim in a starting role AND/OR drafted an OLB prospect. Instead, Hughes still hasn't been given a real chance to showcase his OLB skills and the Colts are in the exact same position as they were a year ago.
I understand honoring Freeney by letting him play out his contract, but it was a bad decision, even compounded moreso by the fact that the Colts were actually a competitive team last season, as opposed to the rebuilding team that many thought they would be. With Freeney's cap space, they could have signed Laron Landry and and a couple of better OL and likely would have had a better chance at winning a playoff game. But what's done is done.
@DougEngland Ever change jobs even when it is in your best interests to do so? The hardest thing is making up your mind to do so. If you have had positive memories or working relationships, its really rough. Besides, there is lots of uncertainty. Then once you have crossed the bridge mentally, you absolutely can not wait to move on.
I am sure both Freeney and Collie found themselves making the same mental adjustments to the current realities. Being both outstanding players and personalities, you would expect nothing less.
There was no way, Freeney was ever going to play for far less than he is worth unless he was born, raised and played college ball in central Indiana. "Playing for a million dollars", is simply part of the mental thought process of dealing with the reality of having to move on as the best decision for everyone; the fans, the team, and oneself.
With Freeney, just like with Collie, if you put yourself in their shoes, and flip the question around, why would either of them rationally choose to stay with the Colts?
For Dwight Freeney, who right now is a border line HOF Defensive End, leaving the Colts and finishing his career on a high note is his best hope of making Canton. Freeney's truly heroic effort in the first half of the 2009 Super Bowl, despite a brutally painful ankle was legendary. Still stay with the Colts and playing out his years as a limited snap niche role player, or mediocre 3-4 OLB only serves to highlight Feeney's limitations, instead of empathizing the stunning pure pass rushing 4-3 skills that make Freeney so very special.
Like Richard Dent, another late career shot at a Super Bowl as a featured 4-3 pass rusher would insure a HOF bust for Freeney. Colts fans should wish Freeney the best and be glad he is moving on.