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Free agent watch: Antoine Bethea

1/14/2014

INDIANAPOLIS -- Safety Antoine Bethea will kick off the daily look at key Colts’ free agents.

2013 stats: 110 tackles (80 solo), 1.0 sack, 1 fumble recovery, 2 interceptions and six passes defended

Bethea didn’t sound like a player confident that he’ll be back with the franchise he started every game with during his eight years. He was selected to two Pro Bowls.

“Free agency is here,” he said. “It’s my first time really testing the market, so kind of excited. Want to finish my career here, but if not, hey, got to go on and start a new chapter in my career.”

Bethea is one of the leaders in the locker room with quarterback Andrew Luck, receiver Reggie Wayne, defensive lineman Cory Redding and linebacker Robert Mathis. Bethea was also second on the team in tackles, trailing only linebacker Jerrell Freeman. Unlike his sidekick at the other safety spot -- LaRon Landry -- Bethea is durable. He's started 96 straight regular-season games.

But he’ll turn 30 years old before the start of next season. Bethea was solid this season, but his play doesn’t warrant the Colts to make a quick decision to re-sign him. He said there hasn’t been any conversation about his future with the team.

“Like I said, I’d love to finish my career here, but at the end of the day, two sides have to come to an agreement,” Bethea said. “Like you said, I had a great time here, great eight years, two Super Bowl appearances, a Super Bowl ring. Most definitely grew up as a player and grew up as a man here in Indianapolis. The community welcomed me with open arms. I want to stay but we will see.”

Prediction: Bethea will test the free-agent market and the Colts won’t rush to re-sign him, which means they won’t overspend to bring him back. This will likely be a case of business vs. loyalty. Business usually wins out.