INDIANAPOLIS – For a team with a dire pass rushing need, you would think letting the NFL's leading free agent sacker hit the open market in 2017 would be a major mistake
That's what makes the dilemma of Erik Walden re-signing with the Colts complicated.
It's not that easy of a decision.
Walden was outstanding in 2016.
He led the Colts in 11 sacks, almost doubling his previous season-high after nine years in the NFL.
Since the Colts brought Walden in via free agency in 2013, they've received a pretty consistent edge presence (Walden has missed just three games in four seasons with the Colts).
Where things get murky in Walden coming back is in how the Colts want to handle their future at outside linebacker.
- Walden should merit some suitors in what is likely his last major pay day in NFL life. Can the Colts afford to get into a bidding war for a 31-year-old outside linebacker?
- How much do the Colts want to turn the page at outside linebacker? Robert Mathis is retired. Trent Cole, 35, is also heading for free agency. Do the Colts want a virtual start over off the edge, with Akeem Ayers and Curt Maggitt the only returners in 2017?
- The Colts have to find new outside linebackers this offseason. That's obvious. It's a supposedly deep outside linebacker group in the draft, so the Colts all but have to tap into that. If free agency is going to be used as well, the Colts could find a younger (but maybe less productive?) option than Walden.
If this is it for Walden in Indianapolis, he had a very solid four seasons with the Colts.
Walden returning in 2017 should allow for the Colts to add a high draft pick at outside linebacker, and have that duo lead them come fall.
Of the Colts' nine unrestricted free agents in 2017, Walden is probably the most difficult case to project.
2017 Free Agent Watch*
-SafetyMike Adams: Adams Watch*
-Cornerback/Safety Darius Butler: *Butler Watch*
-Outside Linebacker Chris Carter: *Carter Watch*
*-Offensive Guard Hugh Thornton: Thornton Watch *
-Running Back Jordan Todman: Todman Watch
-Running Back Robert Turbin: Turbin Watch **
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