Inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman has been a bargain for the Indianapolis Colts, but he wants a more lucrative contract and at least for now is skipping the team’s voluntary offseason training activities.
Eight weeks of OTAs began Monday at the team complex without him. The restricted free agent has yet to sign his one-year qualifying offer, which would pay him $2.35 million for next season.
His desire for a new contract has been reported by numerous media outlets. One of those reports came from Stephen Holder of The Indianapolis Star, who cited an unnamed NFL source.
Freeman, 28, made the minimum salary of $570,000 last season, which made him one of the league’s more underpaid players considering his statistics. He’s amassed 366 tackles in three seasons since joining the franchise after three years in the Canadian Football League.
He’s led the Colts in tackles twice, with 145 in 2012 and 126 in 2013. Last season, he made 95 tackles in 12 games, missing four due to injuries, but played his best football late in the year. He led the NFL with 32 tackles in three playoff games.
It’s also understandable for the 44-game starter to want more money when considering how much has been shelled out on other players at his position. The Colts recently added outside linebacker Trent Cole ($14 million, two years) and inside linebacker Nate Irving ($7.25 million, three years) in free agency.
Last season’s Colts leading tackler, inside linebacker D’Qwell Jackson, is entering the second year of his $22-million, four-year contract. Outside linebacker Erik Walden is entering the third year of his $16-million, four-year deal. Outside linebacker Bjoern Werner, a former first-round draft choice who has been disappointing, is entering the third year of a $7.89-million, four-year deal.
Outside linebacker Robert Mathis, who missed last season due to suspension and injury, will be paid $7.75 million next season, which ranks second on the roster. Granted, he’s a six-time Pro Bowl star and former league sack champion.
The signing of Irving during recent free agency gives the team another option at inside linebacker, although the former Denver Broncos defender is coming off knee surgery.
The deadline for another team to make an offer on the restricted free agent is Friday, but it’s unlikely that will happen because such a consideration would cost a second-round draft choice if the Colts didn’t exercise their right of first refusal.
The Colts can’t force him to work out — hence the term voluntary — and restricted free agent tenders can’t be withdrawn until June 15.
Should the Colts decide to ante up on a new multi-year deal, the team is $10.4 million under the salary cap. A new deal probably would need to be back-weighted so his cap hit next season wouldn’t force the team to cut another player.
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.