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Indianapolis Colts

With contract extension, Colts LB Zaire Franklin has chance to deepen remarkable legacy in Indianapolis

Franklin is a four-time team captain, the Colts' single-season tackles leader and was the club's Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee in 2023. 

Zaire Franklin has already built a sturdy legacy over his six years in Indianapolis.

Among his accomplishments: Becoming a four-time team captain, setting the franchise single-season tackles record twice, being named the Colts' Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee and earning not one, but two contract extensions – the second of which he signed last week.

Franklin is exactly the kind of player NFL teams want to reward – a leader on the field and in the community, a highly-productive player and an example for his teammates to follow. That the Colts and Franklin negotiated an extension a full year before his current contract was due to expire speaks to the well-rounded impact the 27-year-old linebacker has had, is having and will have.

"It's good to get that out the way," Franklin said in a sit-down on this week's Official Colts Podcast (on YouTube | Apple Podcasts | Spotify). "To be honest with you, I don't play for money. Money doesn't necessarily motivate me. To be honest with you, being with my teammates, just the love of the team and the direction we're going is what drives me to be the best player, the best teammate, the best leader that I can be.

"But I understand we all play for a goal and that's to take care of my family long term. So just thankful that I was able to put myself in position to be able to take care of my family. But now with that weight off my shoulders, we keep the main thing the main thing, and that's getting better every day and continuing to lead the team to wins."

Franklin earned his first extension largely through the tireless work he put in on special teams, where he became a core player and earned his first team captain nod in 2020. From there, Franklin – a 2018 seventh-round pick who didn't get an NFL Combine invite – began establishing himself on the Colts' defense. He became a starter in 2022 after signing that extension and set the Colts' single-season record with 166 tackles.

That offseason, All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner delivered a message to Franklin.

"The first year you do something, you pretty much catch the league by surprise," Franklin said. "He said, it's only great players that are able to continue that level of consistency over the course of several years."

Franklin went out in 2023 and broke his own record with 13 more tackles while playing in one fewer game.

Going forward, though, Franklin's focus is on doing more than just making tackles.

"For me, my growth comes in continuing to try to make those game-changing plays, truly trying to put my imprint on games that I play," Franklin said. "I think toward the end of last year I started to gain that type of concept and started the understanding to try to take my game to that next level. And it's a work in progress — look, I'm not perfect, I got a ways to go — but I'm committed to being the best version of me."

And whatever that next version of Franklin looks like, the north Philadelphia native will get to do it a city, and for a franchise, in which he's deeply invested.

"Going on my seventh year with the same organization, that's a blessing in itself," Franklin said. "A lot of people aren't blessed to be able to be with the same organization for that long. And just to be able to be here for three more years, you know, I'm a Colt. And that's something I take pride in.

"Legacy is something that means a lot to me. My last name is something that means a lot to me. And I just think everything I do not only on the field but in the community, I'm just trying to leave this place better than I found it. I'm just going to keep giving my all to not only the Colts but to Indianapolis and we just want to see how far we can take it."

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