This offseason, the Colts let their starting inside linebacker walk in free agency.
Even though Jerrell Freeman had been a very good and productive starter for the Colts for four seasons, the team drew a firm line in the sand that they refused to budge on when it came to his compensation. He wound up signing with the Chicago Bears on a very similar contract, and the Colts moved on. They downplayed the whole thing because, after all, they had talented guys to replace him.
They were confident in the group of Nate Irving, Sio Moore, Josh McNary, and later draft pick Antonio Morrison to replace him. But it’s proven to be a struggle trying to find someone - anyone - who can truly fill the place of Freeman. This Sunday, on the same day that Freeman returns to Indianapolis to face the Colts as a member of the Bears, the Colts will be on their third option trying to replace him in a matter of months.
First up was Nate Irving, who was in a competition for the starting battle in training camp. He was with the team in training camp and preseason before the Colts made the surprising move to cut him as a part of final roster cutdowns. All of the sudden, their top option at the end of preseason was cut before even making it to their regular season roster.
So then next up was Sio Moore, who managed to get healthy by week one. In that game he did a solid job, but the next three games soon proved that it was just a fluke. Moore struggled heavily in the next three games, so much so that the Colts made the surprising decision to cut him today.
So now next up is either Josh McNary or Antonio Morrison at inside linebacker. McNary is in his fourth season with the Colts and has played in 37 games, starting five, and has recorded 63 tackles and 0.5 sacks. This year, he has played in all four games and recorded seven tackles. Morrison was the team’s fourth round draft pick this year out of Florida, and he has played in all four games and also recorded seven tackles. Odds are it will be a combination of both of them to fill the role alongside D’Qwell Jackson.
But just stop and consider that for a moment: the Colts are only entering their fifth game without Jerrell Freeman, whom they let walk seven months ago, and already they’re on their third different option. Perhaps they’re now realizing that they overestimated their ability to be able to move on seamlessly without the linebacker who had averaged over nine tackles per game during his tenure with the Colts. This isn’t meant to bring up an old topic, but with Jerrell Freeman coming to town this Sunday with the Bears it’s an appropriate time to reflect. Freeman has continued to produce, racking up 41 tackles and a pass defensed while starting the first four games in Chicago. The Colts, meanwhile, are now turning to their third option as they’re still trying to find Freeman’s replacement. This week’s as good of a time as ever to point out that stark contrast.