For free agents looking to latch onto a new team or rejoin their respective organization, production pays. No matter how irrelevant a player once was, one dominant season can warrant a substantial payday for the next season. To the casual fan, Indianapolis Colts linebacker Jerrell Freeman isn't a household name you discuss frequently with your friends. However, he's become a solid linebacker who looks to be a hot commodity on the free agent market.
The product of Mary Hardin-Baylor, a Division III school located in Texas, Freeman has had to overcompensate for going undrafted and attending a not-so-prestigious university. After a few years out of the league, he exploded onto the NFL landscape, recording 145 total tackles, one interception that went for a touchdown, and two sacks in 2012, his first year in Indy. While Andrew Luck was soaking up the publicity on the offensive end for the Colts, Freeman was making plays on the defensive side.
Last season on an underwhelming Indianapolis unit, Freeman accumulated 112 total tackles and three sacks in 13 games. His base stats won't blow anyone away, but delve a little deeper into his play and the linebacker's value becomes highlighted. According to ProFootballFocus, Freeman is elite defending against the run. He's not just among the best in the league; he was graded as the No. 1 linebacker against the run in 2015.
He doesn't pack explosive athleticism or burst in a 6-foot, 240-pound frame, but Freeman's motor allows him to play over the field. Against Tennessee, Freeman secured his second career pick-six, which only bolstered his productive 2015 campaign.
Freeman would be open to returning to Indianapolis, but is currently just processing the new experience of being a free agent:
"(The decision is) not my call," Freeman told Colts.com, via fox59.com. "All I can do is go out there, play ball and let the business side play out. You know me, I'd love to finish out my career here. I played the whole (original) contract, got the (restricted) tender and now I'm just free. I don't know if it's scary. It's just different."
In addition, Freeman also is adept in coverage. ProFootballFocus ranked Freeman as the 21st-best cover linebacker in 2015. For a player whose focus is designed to be aggressive in the run game, it's commendable that he can be considered a two-way player at the position. It's not like Freeman takes off snaps against pass-heavy teams. He played in 449 plays that were passing plays last season, second on the team to veteran D'Qwell Jackson.
Being able to diversify his ability over his four-year career is going to stand out for teams looking to add an impact talent at the linebacker position. The Colts were among the worst teams in the league defensively last season, top 10 in both passing and rushing yards allowed per game, but their ineptitude is more indicative of the lack of a pass rush than placing the blame on the linebacker corps or secondary.
Green Bay can look to upgrade through the draft and take a middle linebacker, after passing on Eric Kendricks and company in 2015, but Freeman could provide the team with immediate production and impact that a rookie might not be able to replicate in his first year. If Freeman proves that his 2015 season wasn't an anomaly, some team will get one of the league's top linebackers on the market who will contribute for multiple seasons for a reasonable price.
Green Bay has a need at the position, so it's only natural that Freeman could be a possible target as the 2016 offseason begins.