INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Jerrell Freeman insisted he didn’t take it as a personal affront in March when the Indianapolis Colts allowed him to ride free agency up I-65 to the Chicago Bears.
It was a business decision by general manager Ryan Grigson. The Colts were strapped for cap space and decided it was more important to sign a cornerback (Patrick Robinson) than retain Freeman.
“I can’t fault them for making a decision that they thought was the best for the organization,’’ Freeman said Wednesday in a conference call with Indy media.
The one-time fixture with the Colts defense – 57 regular-season starts at inside linebacker, at least 144 tackles in each of his four seasons – toed the politically-correct line for much of his eight-minute interview, but eventually revealed his true feelings.
As the veteran free-agency period approached in early March, the Colts offered Freeman what he described as a “take it or leave it’’ three-year, $12 million contract. He wanted to test his value on the open market, and received a three-year offer from the Bears that involved a similar $12 million base, but included the opportunity to earn an additional $2.5 million through incentives.
Before accepting the Bears’ deal, Freeman contacted the Colts.
“Even when I did get the Bears offer and we tried to go back to (Grigson), it was like, ‘Yeah, that looks like a good deal, take it,’’’ he said. “I was like, ‘Wow, I guess it’s over.’’’
In fact, Freeman got an indication his time with the Colts was winding down during the 2015 offseason. The team extended him a one-year, $2.356 million offer as a restricted free agent. Shortly thereafter, it signed inside linebacker Nate Irving to a three-year, $7.25 million free-agent contract. In September, the Colts acquired Sio Moore in a trade with Oakland.
“Honestly, I kind of got that vibe even before (2015),’’ he said. “They ended up signing Nate and paying him more than I made that year so that kind of had me off a little bit.
“I was like, ‘Is that how it is?’’’
Freeman insisted he didn’t feel insulted by how the Colts treated him. He was one of Grigson’s first player moves during the 2012 offseason, a free-agent and a standout linebacker in the Canadian Football League.
“That goes back to how you can’t take it personal,’’ Freeman said. “They moved on, so you have to move on, too.
“I don’t feel like I am entitled to anything. You have to take life as it comes. I worked hard, developed a lot of relationships. I’ve been around some great guys and been around a great owner. People around the league still don’t understand how great of an owner (Jim) Irsay is.
“I was blessed to be in that situation and now I am in another situation and I am blessed to be here, too.’’
It’s worth noting the interlaced personnel moves haven’t panned out. Irving was cut in September when rosters were trimmed to 53. And this week, Moore was waived.
Freeman? He’s piling up tackles for the Bears, who visit Lucas Oil Stadium Sunday. He has 41 tackles in four games, according to the NFL, tied for third in the league.
A big Luck fan: A byproduct of the Colts’ 1-3 start has been criticism of quarterback Andrew Luck. Some believe he isn’t living up to the massive contract he signed in June.
Freeman was around for Luck’s arrival in 2012 as the first overall pick in the draft, and grew to appreciate his level of excellence.
“From the moment he stepped on the field I knew he was a special player,’’ he said. “I don’t know who is saying (negative things). Whoever is saying that needs to reevaluate themselves. He is a once-in-a-decade player, once-in-a-lifetime type player.
“I saw it just from being there and I see it from watching the tape. When he gets time back there, he’s going to eat you alive. If he does get pressured, he is able to do it with his legs. He is one of the smartest people I’ve ever been around.
“Whoever is saying that is a joke.’’