WEDNESDAY, 6:31am: Freeney is visiting and taking a physical with the Bengals today, a source tells Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter).
TUESDAY, 9:44am: One of the most prominent free agents remaining on the board could be getting closer to finding his NFL home for 2016. The Bengals are scheduled to work out longtime Colts outside linebacker Dwight Freeney this week, a league source told Coley Harvey of ESPN.com.
Freeney spent roughly a third of the 2015 season at home, waiting until the Cardinals called in October to get back on an NFL field. In his 11-game season, Freeney made a larger-than-expected impact for Arizona, racking up 8 sacks, his highest total since 2011. At this stage of his career, Freeney is a situational pass rusher, but he is an extremely effective one. Impressively, Freeney set that watermark without having started a single game and he did it on a paltry prorated $970K salary.
The Bengals watched veteran pass-rusher Wallace Gilberry join up with the Lions in free agency this spring, so they are looking into their options in that category. Gilberry signed a modest one-year, $1.75MM deal with Detroit and it stands to reason that Freeney could agree to something in that range, though perhaps with incentives that would boost the value of the contract. The Bengals already have another ex-Cardinals veteran in their front seven after signing Karlos Dansby to a one-year, $2MM deal.
Freeney has said that he would like to return to the Cardinals for this upcoming season, though he is also very open to playing for another contender if that doesn’t pan out. Over the course of 14 years in the NFL, Freeney has earned seven Pro Bowl selections and three First-Team All-Pro nods. He spent many of those years as a key member of the Colts’ defense where he clashed frequently with Bill Belichick‘s Patriots. Despite that history, the veteran recently said that he would not rule out a union with New England if they called.
“Well,” Freeney said, “That’s hard to fathom. But I’m not against Bill. I understand the dynamic involved, but at the end of the day, this is a business. My first allegiance right now is to Arizona, if they’re interested. But if it happened that I ended up in New England, I can tell you, both sides would win.”
In 2015, the advanced stats at Pro Football Focus (subscription required) rated Freeney as (tied) for the 51st best edge rusher in the NFL out of 110 qualified players. In total, Freeney saw 276 pass snaps and just 41 run snaps last year.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.