Dwight Freeney Rumors: 5 Best Trade Ideas for the Pass-Rusher
In the past week, the Colts have severed ties with stalwarts Peyton Manning, Gary Brackett, Joseph Addai and Dallas Clark. Considering they just locked Robert Mathis into a long-term contract, Dwight Freeney would appear to be the next Colt on the chopping block.
According to ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter, the rebuilding Colts are fielding telephone calls for teams interested in their veteran pass-rusher, who is sure to bring in some valuable assets. The 32-year-old Freeney is nearing the end of his prime, but should be an elite pass-rusher for at least the next few years.
Given his hefty salary and the premium draft pick (or picks) that it will take to get him, expect only contenders with a bit of cap space to chase Freeney. You can also cross off teams that run a 3-4 defense, as his size and limited coverage experience would make him unable to play linebacker.
With that being the case, here are the five best fits for Freeney.
5. Tennessee Titans
The Titans finished 31st in the league last year with only 28 sacks as a team.
Since losing Albert Haynesworth and Jason Babin in the past two seasons, Tennessee's pass rush has been amongst the worst in the league. Former first-round pick Derrick Morgan has been a bust, and their only above average lineman (Jason Jones) may leave as a free agent.
In other words, no team needs Freeney more than the Titans.
Unfortunately for Tennessee, it is doubtful that the Colts would trade their best defensive player within the division, so if they really want Freeney they'd probably have to overpay.
If they could find a way to bring him in though, Freeney would be an excellent fit for the Titans. They have plenty of cap space to make a splash, and whether it's Freeney or Mario Williams, the Titans are expected to make a run at an elite pass-rusher.
4. Atlanta Falcons
Ray Edwards was a disappointment last year, notching only 3.5 sacks, and veteran John Abraham is set to reach free agency. This means defensive end will likely be one of Atlanta's top priorities.
General manager Thomas Dimitroff likes to swing for the fences. With the signing of Edwards and trades for Tony Gonzalez and Julio Jones, he has made it clear that he wants to bring in as much top-tier talent as possible. Freeney certainly fits the bill.
What may prevent Atlanta from chasing Freeney is their lack of trade assets. They gave up a king's ransom to move up for Julio Jones last year, which has left them without a first-round pick in the upcoming draft. Would the Falcons really be willing to part with anymore picks after that?
Atlanta will probably look to retain Abraham, but if they are dead set on an upgrade, Freeney makes a ton of sense. Not only is he one of the league's best pass-rushers, but Ray Edwards has proven in the past that he excels playing across from someone of that caliber. Bringing in Freeney could substantially upgrade both of Atlanta's defensive end spots.
3. Miami Dolphins
Peyton Manning is the priority for now, but at some point in the offseason the Dolphins will look to upgrade their defense. They may already have an elite pass-rusher in Cameron Wake, but they are transitioning to a 4-3 defense, so bringing in another Pro Bowler couldn't hurt.
If the Dolphins are able to bring in Manning, expect them to not only make a run at Freeney, but all of his former teammates with the Colts. Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark make the most sense on paper because they fill more immediate needs, but owner Stephen Ross likes big names, so Freeney makes sense based on how Miami builds their teams.
Cap space seems to be the biggest issue at the moment. They certainly have enough to aggressively pursue Manning, but adding Freeney as well could prevent them not only from chasing Wayne and Clark, but also from bringing back some of their own players like Vernon Carey and Paul Soliai.
Expect the results of the Manning sweepstakes to determine how far Miami goes in pursuit of Freeney, but if they do decide to chase him, the Dolphins have the draft picks to make Indianapolis a very tempting offer.
2. New England Patriots
Many have linked Mario Williams to the Patriots, but while they likely won't be willing to shell out enough money to bring in the former Texan, Freeney is another story. Though he makes a large salary himself, it is certainly not what Williams will demand and New England has the flexibility to to pay him what he is owed.
There may not be a better football fit for Freeney than the Patriots. No coach better utilizes his defensive talent than Bill Belichick and his schemes could allow Freeney to stay productive well into his 30s. Their switch to a 4-3 defense was largely a disappointment last year, and that can be attributed to both their corners and their rushers. Expect both areas to be addressed during the offseason.
In terms of ammo, no team is better positioned to trade for a veteran than New England. Like always, they are loaded with draft picks, with two selections in both the first and second rounds and several more later on.
The only thing that would hold them back is history. The Patriots almost never bring in superstar veterans, especially when it would cost them draft picks. If Freeney were a free agent there would be a stronger possibility that he'd be a Patriot, but the thought of Bill Belichick giving up any of his hoarded draft picks is hard to fathom.
If the Patriots do decide to chase Freeney, he is the type of player who could put them over the top.
1. Chicago Bears
The Bears have a ton of cap space and are ready to use it.
The need isn't necessarily there, as the Bears already employ superstar Julius Peppers, but as we saw with the Giants, you can never have enough pass-rushers. The possibility of pairing Peppers and Freeney is simply tantalizing, especially when you consider their defensive background as a franchise.
Freeney has played most of his career in Tony Dungy's cover-2 scheme. Though it is a rarity for teams to use it as their main package, the Bears are one of the teams that do. Head coach Lovie Smith is a disciple of Dungy and would make the transition to Chicago much easier for Freeney.
Draft picks seem to be the only concern here. Chicago is just now starting to get over the lost draft picks of the Jay Cutler trade, so it seems hard to believe that they'd give up more young talent for Freeney. If the Bears believe they really are contenders though, Freeney could be their missing piece.