Colts Use Franchise Tag on Freeney

The Indianapolis Colts made it official today, taking one of this year's top potential unrestricted free agents off the market...

By using the franchise tag designation on star defensive end Dwight Freeney, the Indianapolis Colts have guaranteed him a one-year deal worth $8.644 million. But the two sides are interested in working out a long-term deal before early June.

The contract tender, if signed, is equivalent to the average of the five top-paid defensive ends. Miami's Jason Taylor heads that list with $9.464 million in compensation.

Freeney, who is the Colts' all-time sacks leader after just five seasons in the NFL, has 56.5 career sacks. He fell under some criticism this year after posting his lowest sacks production of the season with just 5.5 sacks, but he continued to battle through double-teams to rattle opposing quarterbacks and also played through a nagging upper leg injury earlier this year. According to the Colts' team statistics, Freeney was credited with 33 quarterback pressures in 2006.

Freeney's reputation as a playmaker is well-known with 27 forced fumbles, including nine during his rookie season. Originally considered by some to be too small to play defensive end at the pro level, he's helped redefine the position with his quickness and multitude of moves.

Selected in the first round of the 2002 NFL Draft, Freeney became the first player in Colts history to post four consecutive double-digit sack seasons. He was named to the AFC's Pro Bowl team for three consecutive seasons from 2003 through 2005.

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