Does Dwight Freeney fit in the NFC East?

March, 9, 2012
3/09/12
12:15
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Peyton Manning may not be the only superstar mainstay the Indianapolis Colts can no longer afford. Adam Schefter is reporting that the Colts are entertaining trade offers for defensive end Dwight Freeney, one of the dominant NFL pass-rushers of the past half-decade. It's not a slam-dunk that they can deal Freeney, as he's 32 years old and scheduled to make about $14 million this year. But he's a big enough name that it's worth imagining whether he'd fit with the teams about which we care.

Freeney
Freeney is a 4-3 defensive end, and the only two teams in the NFC East that play 4-3 defenses are set at defensive end. Sure, if the New York Giants traded Osi Umenyiora, they might look to replace him, but they have their own salary-cap issues and it's unlikely they'd look for an expensive 32-year-old replacement when they could just slide Mathias Kiwanuka back up front to supplement Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul. The Philadelphia Eagles start Trent Cole and Jason Babin at end and have some depth, including the ability to play defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins there. The Eagles' needs on defense are at linebacker and safety, and maybe in the middle of the line.

The Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys are 3-4 defense teams, and the Redskins like their young outside linebacker pass-rush duo of Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo. That leaves Dallas, which needs pass-rush help but may not be a fit. I doubt it's reasonable to acquire Freeney in the hopes of making him either a 3-4 defensive end or a standup outside linebacker. Guys have done it, but at this point in Freeney's career it's hard to know whether he could make the transition. Plus, the Cowboys just franchised outside linebacker Anthony Spencer, which likely limits their ability to pursue expensive pass-rushers on the free agent or trade market.

So maybe Dallas kicks the tires on Freeney if they have some creative idea about how to use him, but the likelihood is that the Colts don't have an NFC East suitor for him.

Dan Graziano

ESPN New York Giants reporter

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