On Friday, out of the blue, the Colts announced that they have parted ways with veteran defensive end/linebacker Dwight Freeney. Technically, they haven’t. Not yet.
More specifically, the Colts have decided that Freeney won’t be re-signed, which means that he’ll become a free agent on March 12.
Owner Jim Irsay gushed about Freeney in a release confirming the move, saying that “[f]ew people have meant as much to the success of the Indianapolis Colts as Dwight Freeney,” that “[h]e has been a dominant player,” and that he “was an artist, a joy to watch, and the dedication he put toward his craft was a rare quality.”
Irsay also said that Freeney will be inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor.
But if the Colts and Irsay truly want to honor Freeney, they’ll do the honorable thing and cut him. This would allow Freeney to have a three-week head start on free agency, searching for a team without having to box out the other various free agents who will all be chasing the same cap dollars.
If the Colts are, as they have declared, moving on, there’s no reason to squat on Freeney’s rights any longer. So if they mean all those nice things they’re saying about Freeney, they’ll do something that will cost them nothing — while also giving real meaning to the phrase “part ways.”
UPDATE 9:37 p.m. ET: A reader raised a valid point. By cutting Freeney, the Colts would not be eligible for compensatory picks based on his departure via free agency. However, the compensation drops significantly for players on the wrong side of 30, and with the Colts having so much cap space chances are they’ll sign more players than they lose in 2013, which means they’ll get no compensatory picks at all in 2014. And if they didn’t cut Freeney in order to improve their standing in the compensatory draft pick formula, they should say so.