If price is right, Freeney makes sense for Seahawks

Feb 25, 2013, 9:14 AM | Updated: 9:42 am
A move from defensive end to outside linebacker likely contributed to Dwight Freeney's dropoff in sacks last season. (AP)

The amount of work that Seahawks general namager John Schneider and his staff put into personnel decisions would be surprising to most football fans.

Schneider is a “gym rat” when it comes to NFL talent evaluation and has been known to stay the night in his office while looking at film of potential prospects. My co-host, Danny O’Neil, told me once that he turned in Schneider’s rental car at the airport after they both were on the road in Detroit for a Seahawks game. Danny said the floor of the car was littered with Slim Jim wrappers and empty power drink cans and that Schneider had logged over a thousand miles on the odometer looking at players all over the state of Michigan.

You get the feeling that if Schneider had it his way, he’d put his eye on every pro prospect in the nation.

Schneider’s personnel moves are sometimes hard to predict, but both he and head coach Pete Carroll made one thing clear at the end of last season: The Hawks must improve their pass rush.

Former Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney may be just the thing the Seahawks’ pass rush needs this year and Seattle may be a good fit for the whirling dervish that is the Colts’ all-time sack leader. Freeney and Indianapolis parted ways after the 2012 season when Freeney ended his Colts career with 107.5 sacks.

Freeney made more than $14 million in base salary last season and that begins a list of reasons not to sign him. The Seahawks don’t seem to be in the mood to pay even half of his 2012 salary. But there’s hope. According to The Professor, John Clayton, the word is that Freeney may be willing to sign a contract more in the $1 million-$3 million range in order to play on a team with the playoffs in its future. As you may have guessed, a contract in that range for a superstar like Freeney may need to be heavily loaded with incentives. But if you’re the Seahawks, you’d gladly pay a player like Freeney performance bonuses – especially when those bonuses are quarterback sacks.

Other negatives on that list: Freeney just turned 33 years old, will be entering his 12th season next year, and only recorded 13.5 sacks over the past two seasons. But he’s known to be a workout guy who keeps himself in good shape. He missed just two games over the past three years. I’ve heard nothing but good reports about his locker-room presence and leadership. He loves the game and it shows in his play.

As for the sacks, the Colts switched from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 defense last season. It’s not like that’s speaking a whole new language, but for a guy who is used to lining up with his knuckle in the dirt, it most likely had some effect on his approach to pressuring the quarterback.

The best explanation for the dropoff in sacks is that Freeney is the ultimate situational pass rusher. Almost his entire career has been a pass-rushing situation. He fed off of Peyton Manning’s phenomenal quarterback play and the Colts’ success. Most of their opponents throughout Freeney’s career were facing a large point deficit due to Manning’s ability to light up the scoreboard. I don’t predict that Russell Wilson will ever throw up Peyton Manning numbers, but the way he ran the offense in the second half of the season may be an indicator that Seahawks opponents will be playing catchup. That’s when Freeney thrives.

Lastly, Freeney has a wonderful repertoire of moves – a speed rush, a spin move and a quick inside step. He understands how to set up an opposing offensive tackle throughout the course of a game and his tutelage in that art may prove to be invaluable to a young player like Bruce Irvin.

As my other co-host, Jim Moore, puts it, maybe Freeney will give the Seahawks a “good team discount” and take less money to be in a place like Seattle with a lot of postseason hope in the future. If Freeney is willing and the Seahawks are able, it may go a long way towards solving at least one offseason problem the team will address – pass rush.

Because Schneider has done such a good job of amassing young talent on this team, the Hawks don’t need to over-reach financially for a high-priced free agent. Hopefully they won’t have to if the Seahawks and Dwight Freeney can work out a deal.

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If price is right, Freeney makes sense for Seahawks