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INDIANAPOLIS – The ask for an increase in pay first came after last season from Zaire Franklin.

When the Colts first re-signed Franklin back in the spring of 2022, it was to reward a top special teamer, with the belief that his role would still be primarily on 4th down moving forward.

But thanks to the arrival of new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley and the unfortunate physical decline of Shaquille Leonard, Franklin would quickly go from trustworthy core special teamer to indispensable defender.

So, with that, Franklin wanted to be compensated in a manner he felt was worthy.

It’s why Franklin went to the Colts following the ’22 season to ask for a pay increase.

The Colts didn’t initially cave, but they eventually re-engaged Franklin this past fall to reward (arguably) their top leader.

“After last season I kind of approached them like, ‘Hey, something ain’t right,'” Franklin explains. “I think definitely credit to Chris (Ballard), (capologist) Mike Bluem, the Irsays and everyone involved pretty much to just handle it.

“I feel like we handled it like professionals. We didn’t let anything get too personal. I was able to handle everything pretty straight forward. While it was tough at times, but I think the process went about as good as we thought it could.”

To put it into numbers, the why Franklin got a pay increase comes from his role.

From 2018-21, Franklin played a total of 462 defensive snaps across 65 games. That’s 462 of out of 4,201 defensive snaps (10.9 percent), never eclipsing more than 17 percent of the defensive snaps in any of his first four seasons.

Since Franklin re-upped the first time with the Colts following that ’21 season, he’s been one of this team’s most important players. Franklin didn’t miss a single defensive snap in 2022 (playing 1,034 snaps). He then logged 1,089 snaps last year, out of a possible 1,171. No one on the Colts defense sniffs the amount of work Franklin has received the past two years.

Given that, he felt a new pay day was needed.

“I feel like as thankful as I am for how this all has went, now I just feel like I’m finally being paid for the job that I’ve already been doing,” Franklin says.

“Just got to continue to raise that level and continue to move that forward.”

Played as mainly a special teamer in 2022 (3-year deal for $10 million, with $4 million guaranteed), Franklin is now paid as a top-10 NFL linebacker (3-year deal for $31.3 million, with $17.6 million guaranteed).

“Zaire has worked hard to achieve everything in his career and I’m excited for him and his family on this well-deserved contract,” Shane Steichen said after Franklin inked his extension. “I respect Zaire for his football acumen and even more so for his character. He has the respect of everyone in our locker room as evidenced by him being selected by his teammates as a captain and our nominee for the 2023 NFL Walter Payton Man of The Year award.”

Team wise, Franklin has often fully embraced the role as lead spokesperson, as a 3-year captain resume from his days at Syracuse (just the second in the 100-plus year history of the school) checking the Colts ever-important character box.

It’s springtime, but Franklin is already speaking words that have many Colts fans nodding their heads at the thought.

“To be able to now going into my seventh year with one team, that’s rare,” Franklin says. “Not many guys that you meet throughout the league have played for that long for one team.

“I think at this point now, accolades aside, money aside, it’s time for us to put some banners up now. It’s time for us to accomplish something. We’ve got to leave here with something other than good memories.

“I guess the expectation has to be a division title, period.”

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