Freeney is a good pass-rusher, of that there's no doubt, but he isn't worth that kind of scrilla, and here's why.
Freeney Is Playing Like a Washed-Up Star
Before you rip me about how Freeney is only 32 and has a ton of gas left in the tank, let's take a look at his production over the course of the last three years.
|Year||Games||Total Tackles||Solo||Assisted||Sacks||Forced Fumbles|
It's important to note that Freeney was plagued by a nagging quad injury and an abdomen injury during the 2009 season—the best of the three years. He only played in 14 games, and out of those, Freeney only started nine.
Since then, his numbers have slowly been declining. The worst part is that it's not just Freeney's sack numbers that are going down, but his overall production is in decline, too. He's not impacting the game like an elite defensive end, and he shouldn't be getting paid like he is.
Freeney may only be 32 years old, but he's playing like he's nearing the end of his career.
Freeney Doesn't Match Up with the NFL's Best Pass-Rushers
Freeney hasn't been a truly elite pass-rusher since the 2005 season. He tallied 16 sacks in 2004, and then in 2005 he hauled in 11 sacks in 13 starts, according to NFL.com.
Freeney's production over the last two years doesn't come close to the best pass-rushers in the league. His 10 sacks in 2010 tied him for 17th place, and his 8.5 sacks in 2011 didn't even get him into the top 25.
To demonstrate further just how overpaid Freeney is compared to his actual worth, let's take a look at how he stacks up against the top 10 pass-rushers from 2011 in both total sacks and how much of a cap hit each player will be in 2012.
|Rank||Player||Sacks||Cap Hit in 2012|
|T26||Dwight Freeney||8.5||$19.04 million|
|1||Jared Allen||22||$14.2 million|
|2||DeMarcus Ware||19.5||$10.3 million|
|3||Jason Babin||18||$5.78 million|
|4||Jason Pierre-Paul||16.5||$3.15 million|
|T5||Terrell Suggs||14||$11.18 million|
|T5||Aldon Smith||14||$3.27 million|
|7||Chris Long||13||$12.71 million|
|8||Tamba Hali||12||$14.25 million|
|T9||Von Miller||11.5||$4.75 million|
It's clear that Freeney is getting paid at least double what he's worth. In fact, as I already mentioned at the top, he's getting paid more in 2012 than anyone—that means Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers.
If Freeney was doing what Allen is doing for the Minnesota Vikings on a regular basis, I'd have to say he might be worth $19 million. However, he isn't coming anywhere close to producing like Allen has over the last five years—77.5 sacks for an average of 15.5 sacks a year.
Heck, Freeney's only totalled more than 15.5 sacks once in his career. He isn't in the same league as Allen, and Allen's bringing in $5 million less this year. That doesn't jive with me.
Not. At. All.
Freeney Is Learning a New Position
The Colts, who've had a 4-3 base defense since Freeney joined the team in 2002, are now switching to a 3-4 base—a move that doesn't bode well for an old dog.
On June 14, Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star wrote a story about Freeney's adjustment to this new system, and Freeney's response to the change was mostly positive. He said:
Listen, when you've been doing the same thing every single day, you get real good at it, but this is exciting, something fresh and new, and possibilities are endless. It's a proven defense. San Francisco, the Steelers, the Ravens, they're always in the top five in defense. The proof is there.
I dropped back in coverage a bit my first couple of years, so it's not completely unfamiliar. The last six, seven years I haven't dropped back at all, so it's just a matter of remembering what I used to do.
It's nice to know Freeney is embracing the change, rather than fuss about it, but I agree with Kravitz, who wrote:
Most of us think Mathis, who is smaller and quicker, will have the easier transition. Clearly, the Colts thought so, too, or they wouldn't have signed him to a new contract this summer.
Freeney is going to struggle to adapt to this system, and I'd be stunned to see him break the 10-sack barrier in 2012.
Even if he does, Freeney just doesn't impact the game enough to warrant his outrageously high salary in 2012, and as such, he's the most overpaid player in the NFL.