NEPD Staff Writer: Tony Santorsa
The New England Patriots entered the 2013 NFL off-season with just about $15 million in cap space. However, since Tom Brady’s contract extension earlier this past week, New England currently sits with roughly $23 million to spend.
Many figure some of that money will spent on current players with expiring contracts, such as Wes Welker and Aqib Talib, but still with $23 million to spend, the Patriots do have enough money to make a free agent splash.
With free agency set to begin on March 12, the Patriots could be an active team considering how many teams across the league have cap problems themselves and will likely end up cutting several of their own players—we have already seen teams beginning to take the steps in clearing cap space.
If Bill Belichick and the Patriots do feel that they’d like to add some talent to their roster via free agency, then defensive end Dwight Freeney might be one of their targets.
Freeney, who recently turned 33-years-old, is coming off of a season that he was converted from defensive end to outside linebacker under first-year head coach Chuck Pagano. Freeney played in 14 games due to injury and recorded five sacks and accumulated a career-low 12 tackles.
Clearly outside linebacker isn’t what Freeney is best-suited to do, but he still could walk into New England’s base 4-3 defensive system and present a solid pass-rush in passing situations.
Granted, Freeney is 33-years-old and we saw a bit of a decline this past season, but I have faith in the seven-time Pro Bowler to still be an effective force in passing situations.
Many Super Bowl contending teams will likely pursue Freeney, such as the Atlanta Falcons as there already have been reports of the team having “internal discussions“ regarding Freeney.
In all likelihood, you can expect Freeney will come at a relatively high price. You might be sitting there saying that spending a large chunk of change for a player that will be only on the field in passing situations is asinine—but is it really? The NFL is undoubtedly a passing league. Just take a look at this past season, teams were electing to throwing the ball on first down against the Patriots, considering guys like Brandon Spikes were on the field—and Spikes is probably the slowest linebacker to get into pass coverage that I have ever seen.
If Belichick is going to continue to roll with players like Spikes on the field in passing situations, then why not add someone like Freeney—who will most definitely get after the quarterback.
I realize Freeney isn’t what he used to be. He is no longer someone that you can build your defense around—yet he is a moving part that can be a member of a Super Bowl contending team.
Freeney, with an addition of a few other pieces, could turn New England’s young yet talented defense into one of the league’s finest. The pieces are there—it’s just up to Belichick to put the pieces together.