The contract is reportedly for three years and “up to $9.25 million,” according to ESPN’s Josina Anderson.
While the Colts’ starting inside linebackers, D’Qwell Jackson and Jerrell Freeman, have each led the team in tackles, the 6-1 and 245-pound Irving is highly regarded for his ability to stuff the run. It’s an area the Colts have continually needed to address in their 3-4 scheme.
The Colts ranked 18th in run defense at 113.4 yards allowed last season. The lasting images from the past two postseason defeats were a defense getting run over by the New England Patriots in Foxborough, Mass. In January’s AFC Championship Game, the Patriots ran for 177 yards and three touchdowns in a 45-7 rout. Running back LeGarrette Blount had 148 yards and the three scores.
The January before, the Patriots ran for 234 yards and six touchdowns in a 43-22 AFC Divisional playoff victory. Blount accounted for 166 yards and four of those scores.
Irving, 26, is a former third-round pick by the Denver Broncos, for whom he played four seasons and had 104 tackles, 67 solos, with two sacks, two passes defended and 22 special-teams stops in 54 regular-season games, 12 of them starts. He also started three of six playoff games and had nine tackles with one pass defended.
Last season, Irving started the first eight games and had a career-high 46 tackles, 26 of them solos. His one sack came against the Colts’ Andrew Luck on a blitz in the season opener.
Irving suffered a knee injury that required surgery and he was placed on injured reserve.
In 2013, he started four-of-15 games in the regular season and started all three playoff games in the Broncos’ run to Super Bowl XLVIII. In 2012, he led the team with 10 special-teams tackles.
Jackson, a 10th-year pro who spent eight years with the Cleveland Browns, is entering the second season of a four-year, $22-million contract with $11 million guaranteed. He led the Colts in tackles with 138 last season.
The Colts have made a qualifying offer to Freeman, a restricted free agent who is expected to return. If another NFL team made an offer and the Colts opted not to match it, the team would receive a second-round pick, a steep price.
Freeman led the Colts in tackles with 145 in 2012 (his first season) and 126 in 2013. He missed four games due to injury last season, but still had 95 stops in 12 starts. In three playoff starts, Freeman led the league with 32 tackles and Jackson ranked third with 27.
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.