The Indianapolis Colts have a handful of players ready to hit the free agent market. They will need to decide who they want to keep and who they want to let go. One guy they should keep is Erik Walden.
The veteran outside linebacker had his finest season in an Indianapolis uniform. He started all 16 games for them and was their most consistent player on the defensive side of the ball.
Walden, who is 31 years old, set new career-highs in his contract year. He had 11 sacks and three forced fumbles this season. Prior to the 2016 campaign, Walden never finished a season with more than six sacks and one forced fumble. Additionally, he had 42 combined tackles this season.
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The Colts now face a difficult situation with Walden as he will be seeking a new contract this summer. Indianapolis needs to decide if they want to bring him back and how much they are willing to pay him. However, the team needs to try their hardest to keep him in Indy.
Obviously, Walden’s age is a concern because he is reaching the point in his career where his body will start to break down and his play will diminish. General manager Ryan Grigson needs to make every signing count and wants to make the Colts’ defense younger.
Despite Indianapolis’ desire to get younger, resigning Walden is the right play here. The team still needs a veteran presence at linebacker. Remember, Robert Mathis is retiring, and Trent Cole who was unproductive this season, is a free agent too.
With both guys likely gone next year, the Colts will lose depth and experience at the position. Walden may be old, but he has been a consistent starter for the team for four years. Also, they will need his experience because next year’s linebacker group will be very young likely.
This is pretty much Walden’s last opportunity to get a multi-year, million dollar contract. His current contract with the Colts had him earning $4 million a year. He probably wants something similar to that.
The Colts will probably try to low-ball Walden during contract negotiations. However, they need to be more willing to meet some of Walden’s demands because not bringing him back may be more costly.
Remember, Indianapolis choose not to re-sign Jerrell Freeman last year and got burned. Freeman, who was a top tackler for the Colts, joined the Chicago Bears and was their top tackler.
Meanwhile, the Colts cut inside linebackers Nate Irving and Sio Moore. They had rookie Antonio Morrison start the final four games of the season because D’Qwell Jackson got suspended for PED use. Also, backup players like Josh McNary and Edwin Jackson got starts this year too.
It is hard to say this situation with Walden will end up like the Freeman dilemma. However, this recent history should make them more inclined to reach an agreement with Walden rather than being fine with him leaving.
The Colts’ defense needs to make some serious makeovers this offseason. However, Walden should not be a roster casualty this offseason. He should be retained and be a veteran who can help lead Indianapolis’ defense, which is expected to be much younger.