The Indianapolis Colts have to decided to part ways with the veteran defensive end Dwight Freeney, who has spent his 11-year career with the Colts, the team announced Friday.
Freeney, who is the Colts all-time leader in sacks with 107½, was caught off guard by the franchise’s decision to not re-sign him.
“I was very surprised to hear they wanted to go in a different direction,” Freeney said in a text message to ESPN’s Ed Werder. “It would have been nice to retire a Colt … My plan is to hit the free-agent market and see who has interest in me.”
The 32-year-old Freeney was selected with 11th overall pick in the 2002 draft, and became a pivotal player in the Colts’ defense. The seven-time pro bowler has steadily seen his sack total decrease in the last three seasons. He only recorded five sacks last season, his lowest total since 2007 when he had 31/2 sacks.
Colts owner Jim Irsay spoke highly of Freeney on Friday and discussed his contributions to the Colts organization.
“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,” Irsay told ESPN.com. “Dwight was an artist to watch, and the dedication that he put toward his craft was a rare quality.”
Freeney will be forever etched in the Colts’ history book. In his rookie season, he broke the Colts’ single season franchise record with 13 sacks after starting in the final eight games of the season. Freeney finished second to Julius Peppers as defensive rookie of the year that season. He also won the league sacks title in 2004 with 16, making him the first and only Colt to ever do so.
With the accomplishments that Freeney has achieved during his career, he is highly likely to be placed in the Hall of Fame. The only uncertainty left is which team he will end his career with. Either way, Irsay will continue to pull for him.
“We will miss him, but look forward to his future induction into the Hall of Fame and Colts Ring of Honor,” Irsay said.