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Dwight Freeney signs; becomes highest paid defensive player in NFL history

On the way to the bank, Dwight swims through this Bronco lineman.
Photo: SI
We all pretty much expected that Dwight Freeney would sign a new contract with the Colts prior to the July 15th deadline. Instead of playing under a one year franchise tag, Freeney now has a 6 year contract worth $72 million, with a $30 million dollar signing bonus. This makes Dwight the highest paid defensive player in league history. According to ESPN:
Freeney will receive $37.72 million over the first three years of the contract. In doing the deal, the Colts will save $3.68 million of salary-cap room that they can use to keep other players whose contracts are expiring. The Colts had $3.4 million of cap room before reaching agreement with Freeney.
So now, as a result of Freeney signing, the Colts are about $7 million under the cap prior to signing rookies and other new additions.

Obviously, it's great Dwight is signed long term. He acted a like a true professional throughout the entire process, attending mini-camp and other training sessions when he was not obligated to do so. This is in stark contrast to Asante Samuel in New England or Larry Johnson in KC, and says a lot about the atmosphere Bill Polian has created with his players.

It's also fitting that Dwight is now paid the most, and not Nate Clements. Dwight is the best DE in football. Yes, that means he's better than Jason Taylor (last year's defensive MVP). Dwight is the most disruptive player on defense in this league. He makes mince meat out of great LTs like Ogden and Jones, and makes QBs run for their life. He's also very good against the run, despite what wannabe pundits think or say.

So, congrats to Dwight for getting paid. While you look at those figures and think My God, that's a lot of bread! it's important to remember that Freeney is as much responsible for the re-vitalization of Indianapolis as Manning is. His electric play brings money and influence into the city, and both the team and the community are different as a result. When you look at the kinds of profits Dwight brings to the Colts, $72 million over 6 years is chump change. It's easy to take the PFT way and bash these guys that sign big contracts. I personally have no problem with players like Freeney getting paid big money. It's when guys like Adam Archuleta and Willis McGahee get big deals that I have a problem. I don't think it was a coinsidence that this happened the day Corey Simon was re-activated. We'll see if anything happens there. Now, it's a matter of getting the rooks signed in time for camp. Go Colts!