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Colts lock up Freeney with six-year deal

INDIANAPOLIS (July 13, 2007) -- The Indianapolis Colts have signed defensive end Dwight Freeney to a long-term contract that will make him among the NFL's most highly paid defensive players.

Freeney and the Colts agreed to a six-year, $72 million contract that includes a $30 million signing bonus, Freeney's agent, Gary Wichard, said. The Colts also issued a statement saying they had reached an agreement with Freeney, but did not elaborate.

The Colts had designated Freeney as their franchise player in February, which would have kept him with the Super Bowl champions for at least one more season. The team and Freeney faced a July 16 deadline to sign a long-term deal before this season.

Freeney, a first-round draft pick in 2002, missed the Pro Bowl this year for the first time since his rookie season. He was held to a career-low 5½ sacks while fighting shoulder and leg injuries, the only time he has been under double digits in sacks.

Freeney has 56½ sacks and forced 27 fumbles during his first five seasons with the Colts.

His long-term deal would be the Colts' biggest investment in their defense for what has long been an offensive-oriented team.

Since late 2004, the Colts have signed big deals with quarterback Peyton Manning (seven years, $98 million) and receivers Marvin Harrison (six years, $66 million) and Reggie Wayne (six years, $39 million).

Under the franchise tag, Freeney had been guaranteed $8,644,000, the average salary of the top five defensive ends next season.

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