A few years ago, Indianapolis Colts defensive end/outside linebacker Dwight Freeney was considered one of the premier pass rushers in the NFL. Now, it appears that 11 years in the league have taken too much of a toll on the 32-year-old veteran for the Colts to continue carrying him.
According to reports, the Colts aren’t expected to re-sign impending free agent Freeney. If that’s the case, the veteran pass-rush specialist will have the opportunity to test his value on the open market for the first time in his NFL career.
Freeney is coming off of his worst season after unsuccessfully making the transition from defensive end to outside linebacker in head coach Chuck Pagano’s 3-4 defense. In 14 games, he managed only 12 total tackles, five sacks and a forced fumble while acting as a situational pass rusher. His five sacks were the second lowest total in his 11 years in the NFL, beating only the three he had in 2007 while seeing limited game time due to injury.
With Freeney likely out of the picture, 2011 first-round pick Jerry Hughes will have the opportunity to prove that he isn’t a complete bust. The former TCU standout has struggled to make his mark for the Colts so far and is coming up on a make-or-break season. Hughes should, however, have the chance in 2013 to show that he can make an impact when given a significant amount of snaps.
At this point in his career, Freeney is far past his prime. Age and snaps have worn a significant amount of tread off of his tires. Still, he has enough left in the tank to be a difference-maker for a 4-3 team in need of a situational pass rusher.
This isn’t the end for Freeney; it’s simply a new chapter. Where it begins, though, is still to be determined.