Patriots Should Explore Possibility of Trading for Dwight Freeney If He’s Willing to Restructure Contract

Patriots Should Explore Possibility of Trading for Dwight Freeney If He's Willing to Restructure ContractDefensive end Dwight Freeney will be the one who truly dictates how much the Colts can get for him in the trade market.

The Colts are reportedly fielding offers for the seven-time Pro Bowler who turned 32 last month, but Freeney is in complete control of the entire situation.

Freeney is due $14.035 million in base salary in the final year of his contract in 2012, and that's far too much at this stage of his career, which is the essential reason why the Colts appear to be willing to trade him. Therefore, Freeney's trade value will hinge on his willingness to restructure his contract.

Just a guess, but Freeney might not want to restructure his deal with the Colts, who are in a complete rebuilding mode after cutting quarterback Peyton Manning. Freeney should have a little more enthusiasm about restructuring if he can land on a team that is set to win now and in the next few years.

And therein lies the next step in the process. Freeney still has more than enough talent to be an attractive commodity, but there might not be a single team in the NFL that would surrender a draft pick for a player who isn't going to live up to his $14 million tag.

Freeney had 8.5 sacks in 2011, which was the third-fewest total of his career and the second fewest among seasons in which he's played in all 16 games (he has played 16 games in six of his 10 seasons). But if Freeney is put on the right defense, he might still be one of the most potent pass rushers in the game.

Therefore, if Freeney happens to be open to restructuring his contract — say, for $18-20 million over three seasons — the Colts could get a second- or third-round pick for him. For a team that's ready to make over its entire operation, that's a pretty nice asset, and the extra money will give the Colts a chance to get a little more liberal with younger players in free agency.

And here's where the Patriots should come into play. If they're going to stick with the 4-3 defense in 2012 and Freeney will restructure his deal, the Patriots should strongly consider acquiring him. Since they have a pair of picks in the second and third rounds, they'll have the assets to pull off such a maneuver.

Plus, head coach Bill Belichick has famously enjoyed targeting players who have hurt him in the past — most notably with the trade for wide receiver Wes Welker and the courting of defensive end/outside linebacker Jason Taylor — and Freeney fits that reputation perfectly.

A source told NESN.com on Thursday the Patriots haven't yet made any serious steps toward re-signing defensive end Mark Anderson. By reading between those lines, it likely means the Patriots' first intention could be to assess the whole market with the possibility of upgrading the edge of the defense before circling back to Anderson. If that's the case, Freeney again would make sense.

The story is still in its infancy, but as it continues to develop, Freeney will be in complete control of where he plays in 2012.

Have a question for Jeff Howe? Send it to him via Twitter at @jeffphowe or send it here. He will pick a few questions to answer every week for his mailbag.

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