After losing Melvin Ingram likely for the entire 2013 season due to a torn ACL, the San Diego Chargers have to be a little desperate. Clearly, the Chargers don’t have the depth at outside linebacker to move forward and need to dip into the free agency market to add to the pass rush.
On Wednesday, the Chargers met with free agent pass rusher Dwight Freeney. Freeney, an 11-year veteran, has been a dominant pass rushing 4-3 defensive end throughout his career with the Indianapolis Colts. Last season, Freeney switched to 3-4 outside linebacker, and recorded five sacks, the second-lowest of his career, but still generated 33 QB hurries and 9 QB hits. He may not be a natural fit at 3-4 outside linebacker and clearly on the downside of his career, but he at least has experience in the 3-4 and is still the best available option on the market.
Freeney played last season in the Colts’ 3-4 defense under Chuck Pagano, the brother of San Diego’s defensive coordinator John Pagano. Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco should also know Freeney well, having worked in Indianapolis for 15 years, including when Freeney was drafted.
Freeney’s presence on the field, whether dominant or not anymore, would still be a huge help to the defense. Generally durable throughout his career, Freeney won’t be an injury worry like Larry English and he should still get the respect from opposing offenses, allowing other guys on defense to make plays.
Though the Chargers could still be years away from competing with or without Freeney, Telesco must do something to prove he’s not simply throwing in the towel on the season. The Chargers likely wanted to keep the remaining salary cap space for an emergency signing during the season, but Ingram’s injury is an emergency for the team. Without a pass rush and an already questionable secondary, the Chargers’ defense will get picked apart by Peyton Manning twice a year and by any competent quarterback.
Though Freeney is a risk due to his age and questionable fit in Pagano’s scheme, the Chargers should still make the move. Freeney is the best available pass rusher with some 3-4 experience, and would still easily be the team’s best pass rusher in 2013.