Signing Dwight Freeney was right move for Falcons (yes, even at 36)

Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater of the Minnesota Vikings has the ball knocked free by linebacker Dwight Freeney, then of Arizona, last season. Freeney signed with the Falcons Tuesday. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater of the Minnesota Vikings has the ball knocked free by linebacker Dwight Freeney, then of Arizona, last season. Freeney signed with the Falcons Tuesday. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

After the 2012 season, when the Falcons believed they were close to a Super Bowl, they made the decision to bring in two veterans with strong resumes: running back Steven Jackson and defensive end Osi Umenyiora. Their hope: That it would push them over the top. The result: Not good. The season went sideways but that was more the residual of injuries and other personnel decisions than it was the two signings.

The Falcons made a similar move Tuesday. In need of improving the pass rush and a mentor for a number of young defensive players, particularly former No. 1 draft pick Vic Beasley, they signed linebacker Dwight Freeney.

This move has been long expected. I wrote last week that Freeney’s signing could happen soon but honestly I didn’t expect it until after at least the Falcons’ first preseason game next Thursday against Washington. Expect Freeney to be on the “old man schedule” of an NFL training camp. He’ll take a little while to get into playing shape and even then probably won’t see much preseason action — because, frankly, he doesn’t need to and it’s not worth the risk.

Freeney’s signing wouldn’t make sense for a lot of teams. But it makes sense for the Falcons, even at the age of 36.

He had eight sacks and three forced fumbles in only 11 games with Arizona last season. You won’t find a Falcons’ player who had that kind of production last season.

Freeney obviously isn’t the double-digit sack guy he was during his prime years in Indianapolis, when he was named first-team All Pro three times, played in seven Pro Bowls and registered more than 100 sacks. But he can still get to the quarterback while playing a limited number of snaps. He also can work with Beasley, who could use some knowledge to go with all of that athletic ability. Freeney still commands enough attention from opposing offenses when he’s on the field that it also could free up other Falcons’ defenders. One of the mistakes associated with the Umeniyiora signing was it came in the same offseason when the Falcons released sack-leader John Abraham, minimizing Umenyiora’s potential impact.

I believe the Falcons, with this move, the Alex Mack signing and the last two drafts, are moving in the right direction. If Matt Ryan and the offense can show improvement in year two in Kyle Shanahan’s scheme, this is a potential playoff team, even with the difficult schedule. And that’s something that hasn’t happened since 2012, when the Falcons came to within a win of going to the Super Bowl.

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4 comments
TheMatr1x
TheMatr1x

8 sacks in 11 games and he wasn't even in a lot of plays in those games... I think he can be a double-digit sack guy if he gets enough snaps. Beasley and Freeney coming off the edge is big trouble for opposing offensive lineman and a whole lot of speed. Grady and Shelby in at tackle as well... the pass rush actually looks good now. If Freeney can mentor Beasley and teach him his deadly spin move, that in itself would make this deal worth it.


Jake Matthews and Schraeder can also learn a thing or two going up against the Veteran in  practice.

JSSN
JSSN

In all seriousness Jeff Schultz (if you still check this section), how in the heck is anyone not named Arizona, Green Bay, Seattle, Washington, or the Vikings not occupying the final two NFC playoff spots? I say the Redskins because I see them having the hardest division crown to hold, still I think they are a 9-7 team regardless of schedule. If someone sneaks past them, they (Washington) still might qualify because of SOS by playing the AFC and NFC North. Man, you are seeing something coming out of the first 7 games I'm missing! 

DawgNole
DawgNole

"If Matt Ryan and the offense can show improvement in year two in Kyle Shanahan’s scheme, this is a potential playoff team . . . ."

_____________________

Big "if." HUGE "if"!

JSSN
JSSN

@DawgNole

I'm not surprised the front office hit the  Freeney button now. Nearly a week of hitting their own should have opened eyes.

You'll find out the exculpatory truth when they line up man-v-man and with limited scheme in Miami during preseason game 3 whether they have anything that can occupy anyone to the point that allows someone to rush the passer. I just don't want to hear the excuses that were heard last season in the preseason (regarding base-D or O line play).

The myth of them being improved against the run was waylaid by Adrian Peterson and again by either Panthers game. 

I'm never sold on any player joining the Falcons until they show they can stay healthy with that training staff.

Enjoy trying to talk to craziness for 22 weeks.