NFL Trade Rumors: Why Colts' Switch to 3-4 Defense Puts Dwight Freeney on Block

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystMarch 9, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - CIRCA 2011: In this handout image provided by the NFL,  Dwight Freeney of the Indianapolis Colts poses for his NFL headshot circa 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by NFL via Getty Images)
Handout/Getty Images

The Indianapolis Colts are undergoing one of the most extensive overhauls in the recent history of the NFL. As a team that was considered a Super Bowl contender as recently as two years ago, they are attempting to dig out from under a disastrous 2-14 2011 season and build for the future. Quarterback Peyton Manning has already been released and will certainly not be the last Colts stalwart to leave Indy this offseason.

The futures of wide receivers Reggie Wayne and Pierre Garcon in Indianapolis, as well as center Jeff Saturday, are all very much in doubt.

As Adam Schefter of ESPN tweeted on Friday, it appears that seven-time Pro Bowl defensive end Dwight Freeney will apparently be yet another Indianapolis veteran leaving town.

Filed to ESPN: Colts are fielding telephone calls from teams interested in trading for perennial Pro Bowl defensive end Dwight Freeney.

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 9, 2012

With the team's switch to a "hybrid" defense—like the one employed by the Baltimore Ravens—the Colts are expected to feature many more 3-4 looks under new head coach Chuck Pagano.

There were some questions as to how undersized defensive ends Robert Mathis and Freeney would fit into the new scheme, but the Colts apparently thought well enough of Mathis' chances to sign the 31-year-old to a long term contract extension earlier this week.

However, as impressive as Freeney's club record 102.5 career sacks may be, the 268-pound defensive end is a "one-trick pony" pass-rusher who hasn't topped 35 tackles in a season since 2002. What's more, he is a liability against the run, and one that the Colts apparently don't feel they can afford.

Indeed, according to Schefter, Freeney is unwilling to restructure his $19 million cap number in 2012.

OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 26:  Dwight Freeney #93 of the Indianapolis Colts celebrates after a sack against the Oakland Raiders during an NFL game at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on December  26, 2010 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

That being said, there will undoubtedly be a number of teams that will have some interest in Freeney given his proclivity for getting after the quarterback.

Schefter reports that the Colts are willing to deal Freeney for "what they consider the right price." However, at 32 years old, it's unlikely that the Colts can expect to receive more than a mid-round draft pick for Freeney from another team.

That is, if any team can convince the 10-year veteran to renegotiate his contract and lower his cap hit.

If the Colts can't get "the right price," they'll likely receive nothing at all. Dwight Freeney will probably become a salary cap casualty if the Colts can't find a trade partner.

Regardless of how he exits, it looks like another core member from the Colts' decade of success is on his way out of the door. Dwight Freeney appears to have played his last down for Indianapolis.