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Colts Free Agency: Looking at the Colts' Restricted Free Agents

Which of the Colts' restricted free agents (and exclusive rights free agents) should the team bring back? Let's take a look at each player.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

We're keeping up with everything pertaining to the Colts and free agency here, and you will also find articles examining each one of the Colts' unrestricted free agents and determining what to do with them.  Right now, however, let's take a look at the team's restricted free agents and exclusive rights free agents and see which ones the Colts should keep.

Basically, a restricted free agent is indeed a free agent but the team can give a qualifying offer to the player and the team has the right of first refusal and can match the offer made to the player by another team.  Furthermore, if the team makes a qualifying offer yet the player signs with another team, the player's previous team can receive compensation depending on what type of offer they made the player.  It's very rare that a restricted free agent who is made an offer from his team leaves in free agency to sign with another team.  As far as exclusive rights free agents go, the player is really only a free agent if the team doesn't offer him a contract - because if the team does offer one, the player must either accept the offer or not play in the NFL.

With that in mind, let's take a look at these players for the Colts and which ones the team should re-sign (list via Spotrac).

Restricted Free Agents:

Jerrell Freeman, Inside Linebacker

A three-year starter for the Colts since being signed from the CFL in 2012, Jerrell Freeman has recorded 366 tackles, nine sacks, 14 passes defensed, three interceptions (one returned for a touchdown) and eight forced fumbles.  He was the team's leading tackler in both 2012 and 2013 and was second on the team in tackles in 2014, behind only D'Qwell Jackson.  He did struggle some in 2014 and was only an average linebacker, but he was still the best inside linebacker that the Colts had and earned some leeway after two good seasons prior to that.  Since he's been in the NFL just three years it's easy to forget that he will turn 29-years old this offseason, but as a restricted free agent there's really no reason the Colts shouldn't at least make an offer and bring back Jerrell Freeman.

A.Q. Shipley, Center

Ryan Grigson and I see differently on A.Q. Shiply, and I think most of our readers know that.  In 2014, Shipley was the team's best starting center that they had all year, but he only started five games - the first four at center and then at left guard in week seventeen.  He shouldn't come back as the starting center for the Colts - as that job will and should go to Khaled Holmes - but he can be a valuable backup at both the center and guard positions and can play well when he steps in and starts.  The Colts should bring Shipley back, but it's uncertain whether they actually will.  They still like Jonotthan Harrison and want to keep developing him, which could make Shipley the odd man out unless the Colts want to carry three centers on the roster again.

Matt Overton, Long Snapper

This one is pretty easy.  The Colts' special teams units have been very good over the past few years; Pat McAfee and Adam Vinatieri get along great with Overton; and Overton is a terrific locker room presence and has a great impact on the community.  As a restricted free agent, there's little doubt that the team will bring back their long snapper.

Delano Howell, Safety

Really, the discussion on whether to bring back Delano Howell depends largely on something that we don't know at this point: is he healthy?  Last year he missed the entire season, being placed on injured reserve during training camp with a neck injury.  Is he healthy?  Will he be back on the field this fall?  These are questions that we don't know the answer to, but they're the questions that could decide whether Howell returns or not.  If he is healthy, then it would be a very smart move for the Colts to bring him back.  He played well in 2013 when he got the chance and, until he was injured last year, was likely going to be the team's starting safety (but Mike Adams did pretty well in his place, I'd say).  With the Colts really needing safety help this season, however, and with only Dewey McDonald and Winston Guy currently signed for 2015 (though Mike Adams and others will be added), it would be a good move to bring back Howell - if healthy - to at worst be a solid depth guy and role player and at best be a starting safety.

Daniel "Boom" Herron, Running Back

One of the biggest surprises for the Colts from the 2014 season was the emergence of running back Boom Herron down the stretch.  Including the playoffs, Herron played in all 19 games and started six, rushing 123 times for 521 yards and three touchdowns, averaging 4.2 yards per carry.  He also added 41 receptions for 301 yards - but the negative to his game was that he fumbled four times, losing three of them.  The best thing the Colts could do at the running back position is add a starter but have Herron rotate in the Colts' two-back system and provide the change of pace, third down back.  The Colts should bring Herron back.

Jeris Pendleton, Defensive Tackle

Jeris Pendleton has played in five career NFL games (one for the Colts, four for the Jaguars) and has made three career tackles.  To be sure, Pendleton is a guy still trying to find a spot in the league.  Getting picked up by the Colts for the final regular season game of the 2013 season, Pendleton then stuck with the team through the offseason until he was placed on injured reserve during training camp.  He had a decent shot of making the 53-man roster last year so there is a chance that the Colts might bring him back this year to fight for a spot in training camp again, but it's far from certain.

Exclusive Rights Free Agents:

Josh McNary, Linebacker

On-the-field, Josh McNary's 2014 season was a disappointment.  The Colts entered the season with high hopes for him but he failed to live up to them in the four games that he started (playing in 15 total).   His role decreased as the season went on because of that.  Of course, McNary ended the season on the Commissioner's Exempt List after he was formally charged with rape.  Because of that, I would be shocked if the team re-signed him even though he is only an exclusive rights free agent.

Cam Johnson, Outside Linebacker

The Colts traded for Cam Johnson early in the 2013 season, and through two years with the team he has played in thirteen games, recording five tackles.  He was a prime candidate to step up and get more playing time in 2014, but he was injured in week one against the Broncos and placed on injured reserve.  The Colts are a team lacking in pass rush and they obviously like Johnson at least to some degree (to trade for him and then stick with him for two years), but it's unclear whether the Colts will bring him back - though it wouldn't be a surprise whatsoever to see the team give him another shot to compete for a spot in training camp.

Daniel Adongo, Outside Linebacker

A fan favorite, Daniel Adongo's season ended during the preseason when he was placed on IR with a torn biceps.  He was signed by the Colts in 2013 straight from playing rugby in Africa, so his first year with the team was basically spent just learning the game of American football.  In 2014 in training camp, he actually was very impressive with how far he had come in just one year.  The best thing for his development at that point was to actually play, but unfortunately that ended with his injury.  But I find it hard to imagine that the Colts would suddenly give up on him just because he was injured last year or because he hasn't made an impact through two years when they signed him knowing it was a massive project to turn him into a football player.  I would think the team still has high hopes for Adongo and will still work with him and give him a shot in training camp.