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With the Colts not expected to bring back Dwight Freeney, will the Patriots pursue him?
According to a recent report, the Indianapolis Colts have no intention of bringing back defensive end Dwight Freeney in 2013, meaning that he will be an unrestricted free agent. If you're a fan of the New England Patriots, you know Freeney fairly well; he has been charging after Tommy B relentlessly for most of his career, with a fairly high degree of success. Dwight Freeney has always been one of those players that I found myself really, really liking in spite of myself. He has been a phenomenal talent in the NFL for years now, and as much as he terrified me over the years, it's hard not to respect that level of ability.
Bill Belichick clearly shares my sentimetns; he has been singing Freeney's praises for a solid decade now. Belichick also seems to love bringing aging defensive linemen into the fold and figuring out a way to revive their careers. That of course begs the question: will the Patriots target Dwight Freeney in free agency?
On the negative side, Freeney is 33 and has seen his sack numbers decline steadily over the past three years. He finished his 2012 campaign with only five, his lowest total since 2007. Furthermore, Freeney is really more of a pure 4-3 edge rusher, and doesn't quite have the versatility that Belichick covets. In a Patriots defense that seems to morph between a 4-3 and a 3-4 almost game to game, Freeney may be too much of a situational rusher at this point in his career, and one who may come at too high a price when New England has other issues to address elsewhere.
That said, however, Freeney can still be a force getting after the quarterback, and no coach is better at getting the most out of veterans than Belichick. Dwight Freeney and Chandler Jones as edge rushers could represent the anchor of a fairly fierce defensive line . Plus, Freeney is at the point in his career where he knows he only has a few years left, and so going to a team with a legitimate chance to win another championship will likely be a priority for him. I'd like to think that Freeney would be willing to play for the Patriots for less money than he gets offered elsewhere, knowing that he will able to become a solid contributor to a championship defense.
Expect the Patriots to at least kick Freeney's tires over the coming weeks, and I strongly believe that they will at least be in the conversation in regards to his potential landing spots. The only real concerns surrounding the match are age and money, which are certainly two major factors to consider. The team may also ultimately decide that signing an aging defensive lineman isn't the best use of their resources, which would leave Freeney out in the cold. But he's certainly an upgrade over Trevor Scott, another UFA, and on a lot of levels this move makes a lot of sense.
Regardless, there's definitely a chance that -one way or another - Dwight Freeney has put Tom Brady on his ass for the last time. So we can all take solace in that.