AFC South Experiments: Indianapolis Colts and Chuck Pagano's 3/4

Nate Dunlevy@NateDunlevyGuest ColumnistJuly 18, 2012

Freeney is one of the greatest Colts of all time.
Freeney is one of the greatest Colts of all time.Bob Levey/Getty Images

Other than the addition of Andrew Luck to the Indianapolis Colts, no story has received as much attention in Indianapolis as how the Colts plan on using Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis.

In short, the Colts are seeking to convert their dual Pro-Bowl ends into outside linebackers. It's an unusual experiment in part because it's taking two established players in their 30s and asking them to do something different, or at least to do what they've always done in a different way.

I'd recap the entire issue, but the definitive Xs and Os breakdown of the plan has already been done (via Football Outsiders).

There are a variety of moving parts to the equation. Obviously, the scheme could work and Chuck Pagano could find a way to breathe new life into his aging duo.

For Freeney, this could come at the perfect time. While the Colts haven't expressed interest in bringing back the All Pro, he could command a big price on the open market if he has a good season in 2012.

There's a good chance the plan will fail. No one expects Freeney or Mathis to forget how to rush the passer, but age and injury are concerns for Freeney. Given the state of the Colts' secondary, it's possible teams will kill them with quick passes and neutralize the pass rush.

In other words, Freeney and Mathis may not put up their customary numbers for reasons that have nothing at all to do with a move to a hybrid 3-4 defense.

The problem is that if they do in fact wind up with depressed sack totals or rush numbers, it will make Pagano look bad. Part of dealing with an experiment is that failure is a risk that must be braved. Even if Freeney is unproductive and departs after the season, that shouldn't be an indictment of Pagano.

The third option is the one I've mentioned many times. I don't expect the Colts to carry Freeney's $14 million salary this season. The most logical course of action is to move him, save the money and concentrate on players who may actually be around in a couple of years.

Whether the Colts produce flubber or blow up the lab, watching the results will be fascinating.

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