Dwight Freeney has plenty of options as he heads to free agency.
Freeney, with 107.5 sacks under his belt over 10 seasons in the NFL, is likely to sign with a contender once on the market rather than looking for big money. After all, he is doing alright financially after making $72 million over the past six years with the Colts (h/t Spotrac).
The market for Freeney is rapidly escalating. According to NFL.com, the NFL landscape is "buzzing" over the fact Freeney will be a free agent, and some general managers have marked him as the top defensive end available.
A year ago, Freeney only notched five sacks with the Colts while battling an ankle injury and suffering through a scheme change that asked him to play linebacker. As a 4-3 defensive end, Freeney is far and away the best hitting the market.
It is easy to pick a few contending teams that will likely pursue Freeney's services such as the Seattle Seahawks and Atlanta Falcons, but there are a few teams close to contending in 2013 that could make a move for the elite pass rusher as well.
Here are a few under-the-radar teams that Freeney may find appealing, and that could swoop in and land him when free agency opens.
New York Giants
The New York Giants are set to lose defensive end Osi Umenyiora to the free-agent market, and it does not sound as if the two will reunite.
According to ESPN, the Giants will not look to bring back Umenyiora. He was only the third option at defensive end behind Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck a season ago, and was asked to restructure his contract.
Umenyiora's imminent departure for more money and a larger role leaves a gap at the rotational defensive end position for New York, which is where Freeney comes into play.
Freeney will be inexpensive and would be hard-pressed to find a better situation. He joins a Super Bowl contender and does not have to play every down while splitting time with a dynamic defensive end duo in Pierre Paul and Tuck that allowed the Giants to have a top-15 pass rush in 2012 (ProFootballFocus).
The Giants should be setting aside some cap in an attempt to woo Freeney. He is twice the player Umenyiora is and fits perfectly as the Giants look to compete for a Super Bowl in 2013.
The Dallas Cowboys are looking for a re-do on defense, which is why the team fired defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and brought in Monte Kiffin to fill the void.
Kiffin's arrival means Freeney would be a perfect fit in Dallas. Kiffin runs a Tampa 2 defense, meaning the Cowboys will be switching from a 3-4 to a 4-3 (ESPN).
Freeney was most effective over the course of his career when the Colts utilized a Tampa 2 and allowed him to wreak havoc from the defensive end position.
There is a serious cap issue in Dallas, but Freeney would come for cheap if he thinks the team can contend. It also helps that other players along the line may be on their way out.
Defensive tackle Jay Ratliff may be cut as a result of a DUI and a public spat with owner Jerry Jones, which would free up some cap (ESPN). Former linebacker Anthony Spencer is a free agent and needs to make the move to defensive end to stay with the team, but may be out of Dallas's price range (Dallas Morning News).
Dallas could be a player on the market for Freeney as the team attempts to ease its way into a new scheme. He is a natural fit, and when paired with defensive end DeMarcus Ware, could give the Cowboys a Super Bowl combo at the position.
The Chicago Bears are another team flirting with salary cap issues, but are also looking at a closing window of two to three more years of Super Bowl contention.
At first glance, paying for Freeney while already investing over $16 million in Julius Peppers alone (Spotrac) may not seem like a great idea, but it could turn out to be franchise-changing move if done properly.
Let's not forget the Bears attempted to trade for Freeney around this time last year, but were unable to work out a deal considering Freeney would put the team over the cap (Scout.com). From that action alone, it is very clear the front office was intent on pairing Freeney with Peppers.
Adding Freeney, who fits well in Chicago's 4-3, would form a vicious pass-rushing rotation. Defensive tackle and pass-rushing specialist Henry Melton is one of the rising stars in the NFL and ranked as the No. 7 overall at his position in 2012 (ProFootballFocus).
The trio of Freeney, Peppers and Melton could catapult the Bears to one of the NFL's best defenses. If the Bears can clear some more cap space, Freeney has to have his eye on the Windy City as a chance to win a Super Bowl in the next few seasons.