There’s no doubt that during this recent golden age of Colts football, Peyton Manning was the straw that stirred Indy’s drink (oh man, that was weak, but it’s Friday). That being said, Indianapolis has always had a sneaky strong pass rush featuring one of the best sack duos in football.
Maybe it’s fitting and understandable that in the same offseason in which the organization has severed ties with Manning, it’ll also break up that dynamic duo of Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis.
Five days after they signed Mathis to a long-term contract extension, ESPN’s Adam Schefter indicates that the team is seeking to trade Freeney.
This is the product of what appears to be a responsible rebuild from team owner Jim Irsay and new general manager Ryan Grigson. Irsay confessed at Manning’s goodbye press conference Wednesday that the team is “definitely a few years away.” And while Freeney is 32 now and might still be a top-end contributor in a few years at, say, 35, Indy certainly can’t afford the $19-million cap hit this year and realizes that it makes little sense to pay up before he becomes a free agent next offseason.
That’s obviously why they’re looking to trade him. Cutting Freeney — which is the worst-case scenario but probably something they’ll consider if the trade market doesn’t deliver — would cost the team about $5 million in dead cap money. Considering that Manning’s already eating up approximately $16 million in dead money, that wouldn’t be particularly healthy.
So get something for one of the league’s best pass rushers now, before you’re forced to eat that paycheck or lose him for nothing next offseason.
Money isn’t the only reason why the Colts are trying to dump Freeney while sticking with Mathis. Besides being a year younger than Freeney, Mathis might be better suited to play standing up as the Colts convert to a 3-4 defense under new head coach Chuck Pagano, and he has expressed a willingness to give it a shot. Meanwhile, there have been indications that Freeney isn’t as open to that potential transition.
So this simply makes sense, even though Freeney is clearly the more superior rusher. It’ll be interesting to see, now, how Mathis’ sack numbers are affected by not having Freeney playing on the opposite side. The problem is that we’ve rarely seen Mathis without Freeney. Both have been relatively healthy, and they missed time together during the second half of the 2007 season.
Dating to 2004, Mathis has 80 sacks, while Freeney has 78.5. And so combined, they’ve averaged just under 20 sacks per season during the prime of their careers. It’ll be a shame to see that run end, but the Colts are making a prudent decision with the current state of the franchise in mind.
They’ve made a habit of that this week.