The Patriots filled a need along the defensive line with the selection of Chandler Jones in the first round of last year’s NFL draft. But they could still use some more veteran leadership to solidify their defensive front.
With Jones and Rob Ninkovich forming a fearsome pair at the ends of the defensive line in 2012 and a bevy of young talent behind them, there would seem to be no room for another rush end on the roster. That is unless that player is one as talented as Dwight Freeney.
After 11 season in Indianapolis, Freeney is headed for free agency for the first time in his career. Even at 33 and with dwindling production, Freeney still has some good football left in him. He’s a seven-time Pro Bowler with seven double-digit sacks seasons, and even at this later stage in his career could still be an effective edge rusher for many teams around the NFL.
Plenty of teams would be good fits for Freeney, but, while he’ll have a multitude of suitors for his services, a union in New England might make the most sense for both parties — and the Patriots have reportedly expressed interest.
Freeney is on the last legs of his career and should be looking to link on with a Super Bowl contender for the home stretch. The Patriots finished just short of another trip to the big game in 2012 and are in prime position for another run for the next few seasons, considering Tom Brady‘s restructured contract.
As for the Patriots, they have a ton of salary cap flexibility over the next two seasons and, even with depth on the defensive line, are in need of a situational rusher to fill out their front seven. Freeney would provide the Patriots with the perfect pass rush option schematically as well as another experienced veteran to help push the Patriots’ championship agenda.
Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo provide a lot of leadership to the still relatively young unit already, but adding another veteran voice, especially with the talent and resume of Freeney, would help this defense to grow and mature even more.
Freeney could, of course, be seeking one final payday and offer his services to the highest bidder, which is unlikely to be the Patriots. Coming off a $72 million contract, which ended last season, money might not be his biggest motivator, though.
The fit is undeniable for the Patriots, who could use the talent and experience, and Freeney would benefit from both contributing to a contender and the chance at another title.
Photo via Facebook/Dwight Freeney