The Seattle Seahawks could use the 2013 NFL free-agency period to upgrade the defense's pass rush, and if Pete Carroll and Co. plan on doing so, the search should start and end with former Indianapolis Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney.
Freeney was released last month by the Colts thanks to a combination of financial and schematic needs. According to NFL.com's Chris Wesseling, NFL front offices everywhere are "buzzing" now that Freeney is set to be a free agent.
Seattle should be the most interested.
The Seahawks had an elite defense in 2012 that also did not have many issues pressuring opposing quarterbacks. Defensive end Chris Clemons led the way with 11.5 sacks. Right behind him was rookie Bruce Irvin, who recorded eight of his own—after those two, no one stood out in that regard.
The problem for Seattle is that replicating that same success in 2013 could prove tricky without outside help. According to The News Tribune, Clemons is doubtful for the season opener after having surgery back in January to repair a torn ACL.
Irvin is the backup, but has not shown the ability to be an every-down player. He was one of the NFL's worst 4-3 defensive ends against the run last year (per ProFootballFocus.com), which makes him a liability if the front office does not find some help.
That's where Freeney comes into play.
With Clemons hobbled and Irvin still developing, bringing in a seasoned veteran such as Freeney makes all too much sense. He is 33-years-old, but has more than proven he can be an effective pass-rusher when allowed to play the defensive end position in a 4-3.
Last season, Freeney was asked to stand up and play outside linebacker as the Colts transitioned to a 3-4 base defense. Freeney struggled and only recorded five sacks, but was asked to do much more in the role.
Even in a new position and appearing to struggle last season, Freeney was better than most give him credit. According to ProFootballFocus.com, he was the No. 15 overall 3-4 outside linebacker, with high marks coming in the pass-rush category.
In Seattle, Freeney could take over for Clemons if he is not ready, which would allow Carroll to throw the talented Irvin in multiple different positions when in passing situations.
If and when Clemons does return, the duo could rotate as starters, which would keep both of them fresh for the entirety of each game. It could also allow both to be on the field at the same time, which would result in nightmares for opposing quarterbacks.
Freeney would simply be a stopgap for the Seahawks for a few seasons at most, but an extremely effective one at that. In 11 years, he has recorded a jaw-dropping 107.5 sacks as one of the NFL's most feared defenders.
In seven of those seasons, Freeney has recorded 10 or more sacks. Placed in the right situation, ideally one similar to Seattle's with a sound unit already in place, 2013 could see Freeney make that eight seasons of double-digit sacks.
So far, Freeney has publicly expressed interest in several teams, including both the New York Jets and Giants (per The Star-Ledger). He has also been linked to the Denver Broncos (per ProFootballTalk.com) and Atlanta Falcons (per ESPN).
One thing the Seahawks have working against them should they want to pursue Freeney is location. In an interview, Freeney has made it pretty clear that while he prefers a 4-3 like the one Seattle uses, he would prefer to finish out his career on the East Coast (per Sports Radio Interviews).
It is not a major detriment to Seattle's chances of landing Freeney, but it could up the price tag if the team is serious about pursuing him.
What Freeney brings to the table at his age is worth every penny for a team like the Seahawks. Seattle has nothing to lose by bringing him in, considering the team appears to be one or two smart decisions away from a Super Bowl appearance.
Perhaps a player like Freeney is the final step in that process. A talented pass-rusher like Freeney will make the lives of an already elite secondary even easier. The attention teams will have to throw his way will open up more opportunities for other players on the unit, such as Irvin.
Should the Seahawks look to sign Dwight Freeney?
The name of the game in today's NFL is a rotation of skilled pass-rushers to counter the pass-happy trends of the league. A team Freeney is interested in, such as the Giants, realizes this—which is why New York had a trio of talent in Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul. It is also a reason the Giants could pursue Freeney after letting go of Umenyiora—Seattle should do the same.
Even Freeney has benefits off the field for the Seahawks, as he could mentor Irvin in the ways of the position before officially passing the guard.
It has been quiet on the Seahawks front about Freeney so far, but that should change. There are too many positives both on and off the field about bringing in Freeney to simply ignore. In today's NFL you can never have too many pass-rushers.
Especially a future Hall of Famer like Dwight Freeney.