"I was very surprised to hear they wanted to go in a different direction," Freeney said in a text message to ESPN's Ed Werder. "It would have been nice to retire a Colt ... My plan is to hit the free-agent market and see who has interest."
Freeney, who turns 33 on Tuesday and was set to become an unrestricted free agent, has seen his sack totals decline in each of the past three seasons. The seven-time Pro Bowler had just five sacks last season, his lowest total since 2007.
Freeney was a cornerstone of the Colts' defense and became one of the most popular players in club history after being selected with the 11th overall pick in the 2002 draft.
"Few people have meant as much to the success of the Indianapolis Colts as Dwight Freeney," Colts owner Jim Irsay said. "He has been a dominant player, which is all the more impressive considering his size for his position, and he has won a lot of games for this franchise. Dwight was an artist, a joy to watch, and the dedication he put toward his craft was a rare quality. We will miss him, but look forward to his future induction into the Hall of Fame and Colts Ring of Honor."
Despite starting only the final eight games as a rookie, Freeney still broke the Colts' single-season franchise record with 13 sacks, was named the AFC's defensive rookie of the month in November and December that season and finished second to Julius Peppers in balloting for defensive rookie of the year.
Freeney won battles on the line of scrimmage with his blazing speed and spin move, something teammates and opponents continue to try and emulate. He created nightmares for opposing linemen not only because of his ability to get to the quarterback but to knock the ball loose in the same motion. He teamed with Robert Mathis to form one of the league's most feared pass rushes for nearly a decade.
Fans appreciated his celebrations, a simple salute to those who showed up on Sunday afternoons, and players embraced his simple, down-to-earth approach to the game and life.
Freeney is the franchise's career sacks leader (107½), the only Colts player to win a league sacks title (16 in 2004) and his seven Pro Bowl appearances are tied for sixth in franchise history with Lenny Moore. The only Colts with more Pro Bowl selections are Peyton Manning (11), Gino Marchetti, John Unitas (10 each), Jim Parker and Marvin Harrison (eight each). Marchetti, Unitas, Parker and Moore are all Hall of Fame members, and Marchetti is the only Colts' defender to appear in more All-Star Games than Freeney.
The Colts also will not re-sign oft-injured receiver Austin Collie, who played in just one game last season after rupturing a patellar tendon in his right knee.
Collie, diagnosed with three concussions over the past 22½ months and who left another game during that span with what team officials described as "concussion-like symptoms," spent four seasons with the team. He had 257 catches over his first three years.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.