For the past two seasons, Freddy Keiaho has been flying to the ball as a linebacker with the Indianapolis Colts. Selected in the third round of the 2006 NFL Draft, the 26-year-old defender will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of this month.
Teams who have seen him play will undoubtedly be watching to see what level of a contract tender that Indianapolis puts in front of Keiaho. Due to his ability to hit gaps with a startling quickness, his strong football instincts, and his solid tackling technique, Keiaho could ring-up lots of frequent flyer miles if the Colts try to get away with offering him the lowest tender. That said, he's made it clear that he'd love to stay in Indianapolis.
The 5-foot-11, 226-pound linebacker had a voidable year inserted into his rookie deal as part of a compromise that was struck between the team and his agent. It's not something that Keiaho requested as part of his standard negotiations, but due to some miscalculations, it helped provide the solution that allowed him to report to training camp.
"Everybody was trying to get to camp, but my agent wouldn't let me go unless I had a fair deal," Keiaho told Scout.com. "He was able to work things out with Mr. Polian and the Colts organization, and it was a pretty good compromise for all of us.
AP Photo/A.J. Mast
"They had 'x' amount of points left in the salary cap--it was just a miscalculation--and that's just the way things worked out. Had Tim Jennings been drafted in the third round, it could have been Tim Jennings entering free agency this year."
When he was drafted in the third round out of San Diego state, there were some nay-sayers in the media and in the Colts fan community who felt that the team had used too high of a pick on the San Diego State linebacker. But it really boiled down to the fact that he wasn't that well known nationally at the time he was drafted. When you looked at his speed, skill set and temperament, he was a perfect match for the Colts organization.
Keiaho also had the ability to play any linebacker position for the Colts. And over the course of his first three seasons, he saw action at all three spots.
"My rookie year, I played Sam and Mike. Then two years ago I played all three linebacker positions," he said. "And this past year I mainly played Will, but also got to play at Mike."
The Colts made an earlier-than-expected departure from the playoffs this year, losing in overtime to the San Diego Chargers in the Divisional Playoffs round. The disappointment still lingers with Keiaho.
"It was unfortunate, you always want to get to the big game," he said. "I thought we had a really good chance this year, but we were just a third-down conversion away, and a couple penalties away in overtime."
Since then, the personable linebacker has done some traveling that included a stop in Washington, D.C. for the presidential inauguration, a trip to Vermont, and then a cross-country trek to San Diego.
So where's his next stop?
That will largely be up to the Indianapolis Colts when they determine how high of a tender offer to put in front of Keiho. According to the club's records, Keiaho made 114 tackles, second-best on the team in 2008. He also recovered two fumbles. And while he's been entrenched as a starter for the past two seasons, the confident, yet humble player still believes he hasn't come close to reaching his full potential.
"I feel like I'm still growing as a player, and I feel like I have much better football to play," he said.
Scout.com subscribers can click here to read an exclusive interview with Freddy Keiaho where he talks about the likelihood of switching teams versus staying in Indianapolis. And he also shares his thoughts on the Colts organization, his ability to play in a 3-4 defensive scheme, where he's made the most progress as a player, and more.
A member of the Pro Football Writers of America, Ed Thompson's player interviews and NFL features are published across the Scout.com network and at FOXSports.com. You can contact him by email through this link.