NFL off-season: Indianapolis Colts cut ties with Dwight Freeney and Austin Collie
By Paul Higham Twitter: @SkySportsPaulH. Last Updated: February 20, 2013 6:57pm
Dwight Freeney: Cut loose by the Colts
The Indianapolis Colts have severed ties with 11-year veteran defensive end Dwight Freeney and have also told Austin Collie he is not in their plans for next season.
Freeney will now enter free agency after the Colts decided against offering the 32-year-old a new contract at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Wide receiver Collie was also out of contract and after missing the season with injury and lingering fears over multiple concussions, it was deemed too risky to offer him a fresh deal.
Colts owner Jim Irsay was quick to sing the praises of seven-time Pro Bowl selection Freeney, who has piled up 107.5 sacks in a superb career with the Colts, but who has been unsettled by new coach Chuck Pagano's new defensive system.
"Few people have meant as much to the success of the Indianapolis Colts as Dwight Freeney," Colts owner Jim Irsay said in a team press release. "He has been a dominant player, which is all the more impressive considering his size for his position, and he has won a lot of games for this franchise.
"Dwight was an artist, a joy to watch, and the dedication he put toward his craft was a rare quality. We will miss him, but look forward to his future induction into the Hall of Fame and Colts Ring of Honor."
Freeney told local radio that he was surprised by the decision, after hoping to retire with the team, but he still has at least a couple of seasons of solid production if he can find the right defensive fit.
As one of the league's best pass rushers over the last decade, Freeney is still set to be the top defensive end on the free agency market coming up, along with former New York Giants man Osi Umenyiora.
Collie looked like a new Wes Welker in the making while Payton Manning was still playing at quarterback in Indianapolis, but several concussions limited his involvement in recent seasons.
A ruptured right patellar tendon kept Collie out of action for almost all of the 2012 season, when he caught just one pass in the one game he appeared in.
The Colts thought Collie could have had similar production to Welker had he stayed healthy, and now he will be hoping that Manning will be interested in linking up with him again in Denver, as the Broncos could offer him a quick return to the NFL.