Freeney signed a one-year deal with the Atlanta Falcons in August 2016 to bolster the team's defensive line. Alas, the former sack master didn't generate much production, especially compared to peak standards, as he registered 10 combined tackles and three sacks in 15 games.
On a defense that was headlined by the young tandem of Vic Beasley and Deion Jones, the well-rounded Falcons won the NFC title in convincing fashion before losing to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI.
During the run to the Super Bowl, though, retirement was the farthest thing from Freeney's mind as he told ESPN.com's Vaughn McClure to "holler at me in a couple months."
He previously signed with the Cardinals during the 2015 season with an eye on providing a pass-rushing boost after the team struggled to get consistent pressure during the early weeks. He put together a rock-solid campaign with eight sacks and three forced fumbles in 11 games.
Interestingly, he nearly called it quits before the opportunity with Arizona arose. The San Diego Chargers let him go after the 2014 campaign, and he waited throughout the offseason only to see the regular season begin without getting a chance.
In January 2016, Freeney told the story of reaching out to Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians as a last-ditch effort to keep his career going, as noted by Ebenezer Samuel of the New York Daily News:
"I actually texted him. It was like one round I shot over 100 on the golf course one day and I was like, 'Bruce, please I need help.' I was one week away from retiring and I was actually doing some interviews and trying to figure out what I was going to do after, and he called me on the plane and the door was closing.
"The flight attendants were telling everyone to put away all cell phones. I am looking at my phone and seeing it is B.A. I am telling her hold on; she's telling me to get off the phone. I said (to Arians), 'Yeah, I am ready to get off the couch, let's go man.' It has been a ride ever since."
The signing ended up working out well for both sides. Arizona got a defensive upgrade and Freeney proved he could still make an impact in a niche role. That said, the story also showcased how close he was to walking away for good.
Ultimately, the 38-year-old Syracuse product decided it's time to retire. The 11th overall pick of the Indianapolis Colts in 2002 ends his career with 125.5 sacks in 218 games across 16 seasons. The first 11 of those years came with Indianapolis.
Freeney earned seven Pro Bowl selections, was named a First-Team All-Pro three times and also won Super Bowl XLI while with the Colts. While those accolades may not make him a Hall of Fame lock, he should at least generate serious consideration based on his resume.
That said, he's put together a terrific career, regardless of whether or not Canton eventually comes calling.