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Colts free agency 2017: Should the Colts re-sign Erik Walden?

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Indianapolis Colts Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The new league year begins next month, and with it comes the start of the free agency period in the NFL. The Colts have several guys who will become free agents at that point, but there may be some of them worth re-signing. We’ll be taking a look at each one of them and discussing whether it would be a good idea for the Colts to bring them back or not. We continue today with Erik Walden.

Of all the free agent decisions the Colts have to make this offseason about guys to re-sign, the most difficult might be with Erik Walden.

Without a doubt, Walden stepped up big-time in 2016. With the rest of the roster really unable to get after the quarterback, Walden responded with a career-best eleven sacks, also forcing three fumbles and recording 42 tackles while starting all 16 games. He was the Colts’ leader in sacks (11), quarterback hits (17), tackles for loss (10), and tied for the team lead in forced fumbles (3). Walden was unquestionably the team’s best and most productive pass rusher in 2016, and in his four years with the Colts he’s been solid.

But at the same time, Walden’s eleven sacks aren’t really indicative of him as a player, as he’s not the elite-level pass rusher that those numbers often suggest. He had also only recorded more than three sacks in one of his eight seasons before the 2016 season (he had six in 2014), so it’s fair to wonder whether last year was just an aberration as he stepped up on a team without any other consistent pass rushers.

That’s why this will be such an interesting decision this offseason: how much is Walden worth? He’s coming off of a career season in which he racked up a double-digit sack total, but it was also a huge aberration from what he had done in the past. So will he get the type of money that eleven sacks would suggest, or will he get the type of money that’s more in line with his previous seasons?

For Walden, there was no better time to have a breakout season with eleven sacks, as that surely will drive his value up. He would be a nice guy to bring back, as he can be a solid linebacker for the team - but they can’t overpay for him. They can’t get into some sort of bidding war for him, and they can’t pay him the eleven sacks type-of-money. But if they can get him for a reasonable deal, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to bring him back. Offering him a reasonable contract more in line with what he’s done in his four years overall rather than just 2016 and making it a take it or leave it deal would make some sense. If he takes it, then the Colts get a solid linebacker for a reasonable contract. If he gets more elsewhere then good for him, but it’s not a crushing loss for a team that will be focusing on adding other - and better - linebackers this offseason anyway.  The bottom line is that Walden would be a nice guy to bring back, but not if it's on a huge contract.

It’s not an easy decision, though, and it’s one of the toughest the Colts will have to make with their own free agents this offseason. I’m guessing it will also be one of the most debated ones among Colts fans - so what are your thoughts? Should the Colts re-sign Walden?