NE Has Depth, Youth at DE and his signing would impact that
The latest rumor surrounding the Patriots has to do with free agent Arizona Cardinal defensive end Dwight Freeney. The 36-year old edge rusher is still looking for a home in 2016 and is still hoping to re-sign with the Cardinals.
This is where the story gets a little contrived; in an interview with MMQB’s Peter King, King asked Freeney if he’d consider New England. Freeney, a long-time Colt and long-time pain in the behind for Tom Brady, naturally said he’d be open to the idea.
“Well, that’s hard to fathom. But I’m not against Bill,” Freeney said to King. “I understand the dynamic involved, but at the end of the day, this is a business. My first allegiance right now is to Arizona if they’re interested. But if it happened that I ended up in New England, I can tell you, both sides would win.”
Freeney had eight sacks in just 317 snaps in 2015 playing in 13 games, 11 regular season and two playoff contests. That includes three sacks of Aaron Rodgers in a game against the Packers. That was the most he’s had since 2011. But with the Cards trading for Chandler Jones, a much younger player and a guy that can go on all three downs, Freeney’s age and lack of versatility make him expendable.
Here are two reasons why I don’t think this will happen. First, neither the Patriots nor Freeney have shown any interest in one another. The team didn’t have him in for a visit and Freeney never openly courted to come here ala Terrell Owens. King just threw it against the wall given that Freeney was a big part of several contests between the Patriots and Colts. With the intense rivalry between the two teams, it would make for some good fodder.
The second reason why is that the Patriots are already deep at defensive end. Starters Rob Ninkovich and Jabaal Sheard return and the team already brought in Chris Long this spring. With the money they’re paying Long, it would seem that he’s going to be that designated pass rush specialist and even though he has had injury concerns the past two years, he is five years younger than Freeney at age 31.
Plus, the Patriots have invested in young players at the position with Geneo Grissom, Trey Flowers, and Rufus Johnson. Bringing in Freeney would mean parting ways with at least one of them before the team has had an opportunity to see what they can do.
The Patriots are already deep at DE with Jabaal Sheard and 2nd yr player Geneo Grissom, here playing inside. (SBalestrieri Images)
Grissom and Flowers were drafted last spring and Johnson was signed to a future’s contract in December 2014. It should be noted that all three made the 53-man roster at the end of training camp. Johnson flashed very well in camp and preseason then played in the first game before an illness forced him on IR. I spoke with Johnson two weeks ago at a charity basketball game and he said that although he was listed as a LB last year, that the team told him he’s going to play strictly defensive end this year. At 6’5 and a chiseled looking 280 pounds, he looks the part.
Grissom appeared sparingly in 14 games logging in at just 11.9 percent of the defensive snaps but did have a sizeable special teams’ role, playing in 28.9 percent of the unit’s snaps there. He totaled six tackles and a sack in his rookie campaign.
Flowers had a dominant training camp and preseason but a pair of injuries prematurely ended his season after just a single game. He too has an intriguing upside and his red-shirt type ending to 2015 should leave the team expecting much more from him this year. In the short clip below we caught up with Flowers after he was coming back from his first injury
While the signing of Freeney would definitely seem like a good thing on the surface, it wouldn’t benefit the team in the long-term, especially with the untapped potential of the three younger players. Plus, with Long fulfilling the dedicated pass rush role (at least on paper), Freeney’s addition would seem redundant. And could we really expect him to duplicate the numbers of 2015 or would it be like catching lightning in a bottle?
I say the Patriots pass.
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: 2016 Patriots Draft 2016 Patriots Roster 53 Man Roster Projection Bill Belichick Chris Long Dwight Freeney Geneo Grissom Jabaal Sheard New England Patriots NFL Patriots Patriots defensive ends Patriots edge rushers Rob Ninkovich Rufus Johnson Tom Brady Trey Flowers