Inside linebacker D'Qwell Jackson signed a four-year, $22 million contract with the Indianapolis Colts. Owner Jim Irsay first announced the signing Thursday morning on his personal Twitter account. The deal includes $11 million guaranteed.
The Colts later officially announced the move, with general manager Ryan Grigson saying, "He is a team-first guy that has been a very consistent producer on the field. The tempo, energy and determination he plays with are right up there with the best in this league. He brings a welcomed element of experience and natural leadership to our team and we are excited to add him to the strong nucleus of linebackers we currently have on our roster."
Jackson brings leadership and stability to the middle of a Colts defense that is moving on from unrestricted free agent Pat Angerer.
Angerer recently said, "They gave me a heads-up I would not be re-signed by them. I understand. I've been hurt the past two years. It's part of the business. It's part of the game. There comes a time when you've got to move on. I wish I could have played better here. I wish I hadn't gotten hurt."
The Colts traded their first-round pick to the Cleveland Browns and are expected to be aggressive in free agency.
Jackson, a widely respected team captain in Cleveland, was released last Wednesday by the Browns, who were on the hook for a $4.1 million roster bonus due March 15. He visited the Miami Dolphins and Tennessee Titans before signing with the Colts. Jackson reunites with fired head coach Rob Chudzinski, who joined Chuck Pagano's coaching staff last month.
Jackson was seventh in the NFL in tackles (141) last season.
The move was the first major transaction for new general manager Ray Farmer.
Jackson, the Browns' second-round pick in 2006 out of Maryland, started 96 games in eight seasons for the Browns.
Jackson, 30, signed a contract extension last year worth $42.5 million -- including $19 million in guarantees and bonuses. In addition to the $4.1 million roster bonus, Jackson was set to make $3.93 million this season. His salaries for 2015 and 2016 were $7.73 million and $7 million, respectively.
Appearing on SiriusXM NFL Radio, agent Brian Mackler said of Jackson's departure from Cleveland, "He asked to be released. He's been there eight years and had seven different coordinators. That's why when the other teams called he made it very clear to me that he wanted stability at the QB spot.
"Stability at the front office and at the head coach and you're not gonna find that in a better place than Indy."
--Don't expect the Indianapolis Colts to go wild in the upcoming free-agent market.
While the Colts will have approximately $33 million to spend this offseason, general manager Ryan Grigson says that the franchise will be a bit more selective when it comes to signing any prospective veteran free agents.
With quarterback Andrew Luck and several other young players having expiring contracts in the next couple of offseasons, the Colts are planning ahead.
Additionally, Grigson says that no decision has been made as to whether the Colts will use the franchise tag.
"Every day, you get different information that things can happen to where you never rule anything out. We'll see," he explained.
As for the impending free-agent market, Grigson says that the Colts will be careful with how they spend their money.
Last offseason, Indianapolis was one of the more active teams in free agency.
"In the future years, we have some key, key young talent -- and I'm not going to give you any names but you know who they are -- that we're going to have to re-sign. So we have to be very prudent and fiscally sound in how we move forward," he explained.
"We still have a plan in place and if there's a chance for us to get better at any position, we're going to try and get better if it makes sense from a fiscal standpoint for this club."
Do the Colts have any plans to make moves in the upcoming draft? Grigson is playing it coy.
Due to trades over the last two years, Indianapolis will go into this year's draft with only four total picks (second, third, fifth and sixth rounds).
Will the Colts look to move up or sit tight when it comes to any draft.
"Don't rule out anything," the Colts general manager said.
--The Colts agreed to terms on a new five-year contract with punter Pat McAfee, who was scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent.
"For the next five years, I'm super excited to be in Indy," McAfee said via conference call from California on Friday, as his stint as a studio guest host on NFL Network came to a close. "I hope this is what the Colts wanted and I know it's what I wanted. I hope to be in Indianapolis for my entire NFL career and this is just one step towards making that happen."
McAfee played under the one-year franchise tag last season after what he described as tough negotiations in which the Colts were openly critical and McAfee said he received "too much information."
"I don't want to say it was ugly, but it was an interesting situation last offseason," he said. "I didn't know what to expect going into this season. To be honest, I didn't want to play for any other NFL team. I didn't want to hit the open market. I didn't want to become a free agent. I didn't want to do any of that. I was really going to look at all my options of possibly getting into the media so I didn't have to play for another team because I didn't know if the Indianapolis Colts really wanted me back. When the negotiations started this year, the conversations started, I asked my agent, 'Does it sound like they even want me to be here?' And he said, 'Absolutely.'"
McAfee averaged 46 yards per punt and a 38.5 net average last year. He punted 76 times for 3,499 yards and set a franchise single-season record with 27 punts pinned inside the 20-yard line. That broke his previous record of 26 in 2012.
McAfee also set a single-game franchise record with six punts pinned inside the 20 in Week 7 against the Denver Broncos. He handled 86 kickoffs during the season, resulting in 41 touchbacks. In two playoff games, he averaged 51.7 yards per punt and a 44.7 net average on six punts for 310 yards.
--Quarterback Andrew Luck, a teammate of Dolphins tackle Jonathan Martin at Stanford, said he would welcome Martin to the team if the Colts were interested.
Luck told the ProFootballTalk TV show, "I'd say I love Jon, we had a great time at Stanford together, still stay in touch with him regularly and I think he's a great man."
--The Colts recently hired former Cleveland Browns head coach Rob Chudzinski as a special assistant to Indianapolis head coach Chuck Pagano.
Pagano and Chudzinski's relationship dates back to the University of Miami, where Pagano was an assistant coach and Chudzinski was a player, and the two have remained close.
Chudzinski's duties with the Colts will include working with all phases of the team.
"First and foremost, Chud is a resource," general manager Ryan Grigson said. "He's a great football mind to bounce things off of. Player evaluations, game day, all those types of things. He's here to help our coach and to help our team."
--Grigson says that even though the Colts traded their 2014 first-round draft pick to Cleveland last September, he feels as if the addition of running back Trent Richardson equals first-round value.
He views the draft as a deep one thanks to the addition of a large number of underclassmen.
"If there was a year to not have a No. 1, we're happy that this is the year," Grigson said. "There are some quality football players that are going to be available to us (in the second round) and the rounds after."
--It appears that most, if not all, of the Colts players who missed extensive playing time last season should be back for the start of training camp.
Wide receiver Reggie Wayne (knee), tight end Dwayne Allen (groin), running back Vick Ballard (knee), offensive guard Donald Thomas (quad) and cornerback Greg Toler (foot) are all expected back and would be good to go.
"From all the reports that I've been getting from our trainers and from the doctors in the meetings we've had, everyone's going in the right direction. We're optimistic about everyone," Grigson said.
--Wayne usually spends his offseasons working out at his home in Miami. But due to his knee injury rehab, he's been getting in plenty of work in Indianapolis.
"Thanks to all the snow and bad weather we've had, he's been spending more time in Indianapolis than usual," Pagano said. "He's back in Florida now. But he's working hard to get back."
--Grigson said no decision has been made, at least one that the team is willing to publicly disclose, on the future of center Samson Satele.
Satele finished his second season with the Colts in 2013 but has struggled with consistency since coming to Indianapolis from the Raiders.
"This is an evaluation process. We have a plan in place and we're not going to divulge that to anyone," Grigson said.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
The Colts released starting center Samson Satele, saving $4 million in salary cap space, made an exclusive rights tender to outside linebacker Cam Johnson and made qualifying offers to restricted free agents cornerback Josh Gordy and guard Joe Reitz.
Satele was originally signed by the Colts as an unrestricted free agent on March 21, 2012. In 2013, he started all 13 games he appeared in while making two starts in the playoffs.
Johnson was acquired by the Colts in a trade with the San Francisco 49ers on Sept. 2, 2013. Last season, he saw action in 12 games and totaled two tackles and six special teams stops.
Gordy appeared in 12 games in 2013 and registered nine tackles, three passes defensed, one interception and four special teams stops.
Reitz saw action in 14 games, making three starts in 2013. He helped pave the way for the Colts to rush for 1,743 yards, their highest single-season total since 2006.
Scheduled to be unrestricted Tuesday
--ILB Pat Angerer
--S Antoine Bethea
--RB Ahmad Bradshaw
--RB Donald Brown
--S Sergio Brown
--ILB Kavell Conner
--CB Vontae Davis
--NT Aubrayo Franklin
--WR Darrius Heyward-Bey
--G/T Jeff Linkenbach
--S Corey Lynch
--DT Ricardo Mathews
--P Pat McAfee
--G Mike McGlynn
--OLB Lawrence Sidbury
--CB Cassius Vaughn
--K Adam Vinatieri
WIDE RECEIVER: With the season-ending knee injury to Reggie Wayne, the Colts showed that they need to improve the overall depth and size at the receiver position.
SAFETY: Veteran Antoine Bethea may not be re-signed as an unrestricted free agent. And LaRon Landry struggled with consistency. Need to find a young playmaker.
DEFENSIVE LINE: The Colts added several veteran down linemen through free agency last offseason. But Indianapolis has to get bigger, younger and more athletic.
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