Ranking the Best Fits for Dwight Freeney
As the Indianapolis Colts continue their makeover under head coach Chuck Pagano and quarterback Andrew Luck, yet another familiar face from the team's Peyton Manning glory days is headed out the door.
Defensive end Dwight Freeney, who racked up 107.5 sacks over 11 seasons in Indy, won't be with the team in 2013, as the Colts have notified Freeney that they won't be making him a contract offer according to Mike Chappell of The Indianapolis Star.
At 33, the 10-year veteran is in the twilight of his career and his five sacks last season were his fewest since 2007.
However, Freeney still has enough left in the tank to at least help a team as a situational pass rusher and here's a look at some teams that could benefit from taking a hard look at the seven-time Pro Bowler.
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This one is a conditional fit.
However, if for some reason the team allows defensive end Michael Johnson (11.5 sacks) to depart in free agency, then they're going to have to replace that production somehow.
That could lead the Bengals to take a look at Freeney and they have ample cap space to add him if they wish.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers certainly have the cap space to add Dwight Freeney.
However, much like with the Cincinnati Bengals, it's a possible addition that comes with a couple of caveats.
There's a great deal of uncertainty swirling around the Tampa defensive front right now, as Michael Bennett is set to hit free agency and Da'Quan Bowers is facing gun charges in New York.
If the Buccaneers retain Bennett and Bowers avoids jail time then the team probably wouldn't be interested, but the loss of one of those players may get Tampa Bay on the phone with Freeney's agent.
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The Miami Dolphins were a surprising 7-9 in 2012 and, with over $40 million in cap space, the Dolphins have the breathing room financially to be players in free agency if they wish.
The team could also use an end to complement sack artist Cameron Wake and Freeney would certainly appear to fit that bill.
However, the team has several free agents of their own to re-up, and calling them a "contender" is using the term pretty liberally.
That may limit Freeney's interest, which would put Miami in unenviable position of trying to replace Freeney's desire for wins with dollar signs.
New York Giants
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Unfortunately, that's likely all it is.
Yes, with Osi Umenyiora set to hit free agency and Justin Tuck seemingly in decline the Giants could use some pass rush help.
However, the Giants also have very little cap space, so it would take some pretty hardcore financial wizardry to come up with the money to sign Freeney.
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There are already some rumors floating around regarding a potential Dwight Freeney/Peyton Manning reunion in Denver.
What's unknown is whether the Broncos' front office shares that enthusiasm.
Simply put, a Denver team that tied for the NFL lead in sacks doesn't need Freeney, so they may not wish to allocate valuable cap space to a "luxury" addition.
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At least one of their star players has.
Freeney told Freeman that while at the NBA All-Star game recently he ran into running back Adrian Peterson, who told Freeney that "We'd love to have you."
Pairing Freeney with Jared Allen would be an interesting match, but the Vikings would appear to have more pressing needs to fill and not a ton of cap space with which to fill them.
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Were it not for the sorry state of the Dallas Cowboys' cap situation, they would be much higher on this list.
Dallas has never had any qualms about adding veteran players, and with the team making the transition to a 4-3 front under new defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin Freeney would be a nice fit.
However, no team in the NFL is presently farther over the salary cap than Dallas, so finding the coin for Freeney would be very difficult.
With that said I'm not going to count them out entirely, as the Cowboys are a team that isn't afraid to get creative where generating cap space is concerned.
New England Patriots
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Granted, it would be weird to see Dwight Freeney in a Patriots uniform, but if there's one thing that New England hasn't been shy about in the past it's adding veteran free agents.
The Patriots could also use the pass rush help after ranking a mediocre 15th in the NFL in sacks in 2012.
New England would suit Freeney's desire to play for a contender, but the biggest stumbling block here would appear to be money.
Or more appropriately New England's lack of it.
The Patriots have several prominent free agents of their own and not a lot of cap space, which could make adding Freeney problematic.
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Defensive end Chris Clemons, who led the Seahawks with 11.5 sacks a season ago, tore his ACL in the game, placing his availability for the beginning of the 2013 season very much in doubt.
That makes upgrading at the position a priority for the Seahawks this offseason.
However, Seattle isn't in a great position relative to the salary cap, so they may not have the cabbage to stay in the bidding for Freeney's services.
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The Atlanta Falcons came within a four points of the Super Bowl in 2012 and, if the team is going to take the next step in 2013, then one glaring need on defense needs to be addressed: the pass rush.
Only four teams in the NFL amassed fewer sacks in 2012 than the Falcons, who managed just one in their playoff loss to the 49ers and were unable to force Colin Kaepernick into any turnovers. The addition of Freeney would be a badly-needed boost in that facet of the game.
The Falcons don't have much salary cap wiggle room though, and pairing Freeney with John Abraham would be a short-term fix. Neither player is getting any younger.
With that said the Falcons are in "win now" mode, so it's an addition that makes some sense.