Why & Where Dwight Freeney Might be a Good Fit…
On Friday, the Colts announced that they won’t re-sign their franchise sack leader, Dwight Freeney. Over the course of his 11 seasons in Indy, Freeney recorded 107.5 sacks, but the Colts made a smart move to part ways.
Freeney will turn 33 on Tuesday, and he had been playing with a massive contract, earning over $14 million in 2012. The Colts have plenty of cap room, but they have a lot of needs across the board, and they’re better off adding younger players as they try to build around Andrew Luck. Plus, the Colts switched to a 3-4 scheme this past season under Chuck Pagano, and Freeney did not fit in nearly as well at the outside linebacker spot as he did at defensive end in a 4-3 system.
Still, there are a lot of teams that could benefit from having Freeney. Where he ends up will be determined by whether or not he wants to take a healthy pay cut to play for a contender or take one of the higher offers from a losing team.
If Freeney wants another chance to win a Super Bowl, teams like the Patriots or the Seahawks could be a likely destination. Both teams have around $15 million in cap room, and Freeney could be the missing piece they need. While the Seahawks already have a great secondary, they could use more help on the line, especially considering that Chris Clemons is coming off ACL surgery. In the playoffs last season, the Seahawks were unable to get much pressure and did not sack Matt Ryan at all. If they were able to make Ryan a little bit more uncomfortable, it’s quite possible that Seattle would have ended up in the NFC Championship game.
For the Patriots, extra pressure from the line would help their mediocre secondary tremendously. Look at teams like the 2011 Giants and the 2003 Panthers who used a great pass rush to overcome deficiencies elsewhere en route to the Super Bowl. Freeney can still make quarterbacks uncomfortable, and that would go a long way towards helping the Pats.
If Freeney is looking for a big payday, however, teams like the Dolphins, Browns, or Bucs could offer him a big contract. Tampa Bay has about $30 million in cap space, and since they had the third fewest sacks of any team last year, Freeney would be a nice addition. The Browns and Dolphins both have over $40 million available and could use star power. However, I don’t think Cleveland would be a very attractive destination for Freeney…if he’s going to end his career on a struggling team, I would think it would be more enjoyable to play in Tampa or Miami where he could still enjoy a rich contract, warm weather, and at least the prospect of competing for a wild-card spot.
Wherever he winds up, Freeney probably won’t have a post-Colts resurgence a la Peyton Manning, but I think he’ll play a lot better in the 4-3 again and close out his illustrious career on a better note.