FanSided’s NFL website “NFL Spin Zone” put out a list today of five teams that might pursue free agent linebacker Dwight Freeney. The Buccaneers were at the top of the list of potential fits for the 33 year old pass rusher, and while I think the author missed out on a few facts about the Buccaneers, the premise of bringing in an elite pass rusher makes a lot of sense.
Freeney has been a Colt for his entire career, starting his productive NFL career in 2002. He has 107.5 sacks in his career, with 44 forced fumbles, and has gone to 7 Pro Bowls. He is listed as a linebacker on most websites thanks to the Colts recent defensive scheme change, but spent the majority of his career as a defensive end. He’s still got the size and strength to line up on the defensive line, so for all intents and purposes, we can consider Freeney a prospect at defensive end. With the uncertainty surrounding DaQuan Bowers, and the constant struggle to keep healthy defensive linemen on the field, the Buccaneers could certainly use another pass rusher this offseason. So is Freeney a fit in Tampa Bay?
The main concern in this scenario is money. Is Mark Dominik going to open the checkbook for a player on the wrong side of 30 coming off one of the least productive seasons he’s had in his career? As great of an addition as a veteran edge rusher would be, I don’t see Freeney as the type of player Dominik would be crazy about. The three big signings in the 2012 offseason for the Buccaneers (Vincent Jackson, Carl Nicks, and Eric Wright) were all under 30 and coming off of productive, healthy seasons. With a team in the process of building for the future, risking a big contract on a declining player could be disastrous, with cap space being important in upcoming off-seasons. Josh Freeman, Mike Williams, and other key players may need extensions in coming years, and having money tied up in an older player who has lost his edge would be a big hurdle to overcome.
If Freeney comes at a cheap price tag or a short term commitment, he could be an excellent addition to the Buccaneer front 7. But I still doubt he’s the kind of player Mark Dominik wishes to pursue in free agency. I find it more likely that Dominik continues to search the NFL Draft for an impact pass rusher, or opts for a lower ranked free agent that might be in need of a change of scenery. What do you think, Bucs fans? Leave your thoughts on Dwight Freeney to Tampa Bay in the comments below.