Once one of the most feared pass rushers in the NFL for the Indianapolis Colts, Defensive End Dwight Freeney has fallen off the map a bit following two lackluster years with the San Diego Chargers.
Known league wide for his devastating spin move, the 35-year old Freeney has seen his best days pass by him at this point in his career, after tallying just four sacks, 12 tackles, and zero forced fumbles over the past two seasons. While Freeney did only play four games in 2013, during his 2014 campaign he played in all 16 (starting nine games) and still only came away with 10 tackles and 3.5 sacks.
Those numbers are an alarmingly steep drop off from the ones he amassed during his final two years with Colts, coming away with 13.5 sacks, 23 tackles, and three forced fumbles. Despite past success and his evident desire to return to the field, Freeney has incurred little to no interest from NFL teams. The former AFC Defensive Player of the Year and seven time Pro Bowler has racked up 111.5 sacks (including consecutive double digit sack seasons from 2002-2005 and again from 2008-2010), 265 tackles, 16 passes defended, and 44 forced fumbles over his 14 year career, yet he has still been unable to find work.
Granted, any smart signing is made with the intention that the contract is compensating the player for future performance rather than past ones, Freeney could still contribute to a team as a situational pass-rusher. Per Pro Football Focus, Freeney had a decent 53 combined pressures on 372 snaps played last season with the Chargers.
Likely to come at little more than the veteran’s minimum, Freeney could be an underrated late off-season signing for the New York Giants, who are still looking for more pass rushers to add to their roster. His first step may have slowed a bit over the years, but Freeney has shown he still has the strength and quick hands to continue to be productive in the NFL, albeit at a decreased level than what fans are used to seeing from him.
A Super Bowl champion and two time AFC champion with the Colts, Freeney has been around the block plenty of times and could provide valuable leadership to a defensive unit that is looking to learn a new scheme without their former captain Antrel Rolle, who departed for the Chicago Bears this off-season.
Backing up projected starters Jason Pierre-Paul and George Selvie, a second rotation of Freeney along with promising up and comers Damontre Moore and Kerry Wynn, would not miss a beat defensively. Having a second unit that allows a team to rest the starters while the fresh legs continue to put pressure on the quarterback is a luxury the Giants have not had since their 2011 Super Bowl run.
While Freeney does have some wear and tear on him from his lengthy career, the prospect of him coming in on cheap deal to be solely a pass rusher is one that should intrigue New York into giving the future Hall of Famer a phone call.