Colts make offers to Freeman, Herron

Jerrell Freeman, Daniel Herron are both likely returning.

Inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman and running back Dan Herron have received one-year offers to stay with the Indianapolis Colts in 2015.

The team announced Thursday a qualifying offer to Freeman, a restricted free agent, and exclusive rights tenders to Herron, outside linebacker Cam Johnson and outside linebacker Daniel Adongo.

Freeman can still accept an offer from another team, but the Colts have the right of first refusal to match it and keep him. If the Colts would choose not to match, they would receive draft compensation from the team that signs him.

Because the Colts own exclusive rights to Herron, he basically must accept the tender. No other team can make him an offer.

Retaining Freeman and Herron was expected because neither will cost much toward the salary cap. Both counted just $570,000 against the cap last season.

Freeman starts inside next to 2014 leading tackler D’Qwell Jackson while Herron will be in the mix in an unsettled backfield, which could change depending upon if the Colts release underperforming running back Trent Richardson.

If Richardson doesn’t return, expect Herron to share most of the backfield snaps with either Vick Ballard, Zurlon Tipton or a back not yet on the roster. Ballard is coming off back-to-back seasons on injured reserve. Tipton, an undrafted rookie last season, was used primarily on special teams.

Freeman, 28, has made 366 tackles, including 231 solos, with nine sacks, 14 passes defended, three interceptions and eight forced fumbles in three seasons since joining the Colts after playing in the Canadian Football League. He’s also made 54 career tackles in six playoff games.

Despite missing four games last season due to injuries, he made 95 tackles. He played his best football in the postseason with 32 tackles, 1.5 sacks and one forced fumble in three games.

Freeman led the Colts in tackles in each of his first two seasons with 145 in 2012 and 126 in 2013.

Herron, nicknamed “Boom,” appeared in all 16 games last season with his first three starts and rushed for a career-high 351 yards on 78 carries with 21 receptions for 173 yards. His 49-yard touchdown run was the longest from scrimmage for the Colts last season. In the playoffs, he ran for 170 yards on 45 carries with two touchdowns and also caught 20 passes for 128 yards.

Primarily used on special teams before last season, Herron, 25, emerged as the Colts’ most productive running back after Ahmad Bradshaw was lost for the season in the 10th game due to a fractured fibula.

Johnson, 24, has appeared in 13 games in two seasons, but only one last season before being placed on injured reserve with a triceps injury. He has five career tackles. His NFL career includes two games with San Francisco in 2012.

Adongo, 25, is a former rugby player who appeared in two games as a special-teams player in 2013. He spent last season on injured reserve after suffering a torn biceps in the preseason opener.

Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.

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