The names “Dwight Freeney” and “Cowboys” have been showing up in the same headlines recently – including this one.
There has been some speculation as to how interested the Cowboys are in the veteran defensive end. Stephen Jones said that at this time, the Cowboys are not interested in Freeney, acknowledging that the NFL is a “younger man’s game.” But Jones also stated that Freeney has what it takes to be productive and thinks he’s a talented player.
At the moment, the Cowboys are not interested in Freeney, but should the be?
The Cowboys’ depth chart currently lists Ryan Russell, Charles Tapper, Benson Mayowa and Caleb Azubike, at right defensive end and DeMarcus Lawrence, David Irving, Michael McAdoo and Zach Wood listed at left defensive end. These are the guys that could potentially play Week 1.
In 2015 those players totaled 9.5 sacks all together. Freeney has had 10 sacks or more in seven seasons.
Of those 9.5 sacks, eight belong to DeMarcus Lawrence who could potentially miss the first four games for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. Benson Mayowa recorded two last year with the Oakland Raiders and David Irving recorded half a sack.
But those aren’t the only players that can rush the passer for the Cowboys. Jack Crawford is listed as a defensive tackle but has also played some defensive end. He has six career sacks, four just last season. Tyrone Crawford, another DT who could possibly switch to DE, has eight career sacks, five last season.
Combine their sacks last season with Lawrence’s eight, Mayowa’s two and Irving’s half sack, it adds up to 19.5 sacks. Freeney alone had 24 sacks in his first two seasons (2002 and 2003).
Signing Freeney could also help the Cowboys in the absence of Randy Gregory and DeMarcus Lawrence, since both could possibly miss the first four games of the season. The contract could be small, too. Last year, Freeney signed a 1 year deal with the Arizona Cardinals for $970,000. It would be ideal if the Cowboys work out an agreement similar to that.
It’s safe to assume the Cowboys are banking on their offense to be their best defense – the more they score and control the ball, the easier it will be for the defense. Thus making a defensive signing, in my opinion, not so likely.
The Cowboys will want to see what they have in the players already signed before they consider dipping their toe back into the free agency pool. Even though their defensive linemen may still be unproven, they do have quantity to work with. 16 defensive linemen are signed to the 90-man roster.
And although he is a former All-Pro in Indianapolis, who last year had eight sacks in 11 games, Freeney is 36 years old. None of the current defensive linemen are over the age of 27. Picking up a player like Freeney would mean they expect him to take a roster spot from one of the younger players already signed.
Other than the 2015 season, the last time he had eight or more sacks was in 2011 with 8.5. In 2012 he had five sacks through 14 games, the following year he recorded half a sack sack through four games and in 2014 he had 3.5 sacks through 16 games.
Sure, he had a good year in 2015 but his numbers in the years before show that he could be on the decline. There’s a chance that 2015 could have been just a brief resurgence for Freeney and that the 10 sacks-a-season Freeney is long gone.
It may be too early to tell whether or not it is in the Cowboys’ best interest to sign him. Just because the team may not be interested in signing Freeney now, it doesn’t mean the Cowboys won’t sign him in late August or September. If the coaching staff isn’t comfortable with the current defensive front, they could still sign Freeney, or another veteran.
As fans, let’s hope that the current pass rush gives the staff enough confidence not to sign Freeney. Bringing Freeney in could mean the Cowboys aren’t thrilled with what they see in their current defensive front – that’s a bigger problem that could hinder the Cowboys for a few years. Hopefully the young players are good enough to get it done without the guidance of a veteran the likes of Freeney.