The Atlanta Falcons got a lot of veteran leadership out of Dwight Freeney a year ago, as he helped Vic Beasley grow into the pass rusher he is today. They also got a very productive season out of the future Hall of Famer, leading many of us to speculate about the team re-signing him.
Of course, they didn’t do that. They drafted Takkarist McKinley and otherwise stood pat, with some mixed signals about Freeney over the first several weeks of the season. Freeney got tired of waiting and signed with the Seahawks, who lost Cliff Avril for the season. That led to some minor weeping and gnashing of teeth, as you’d expect, but we never quite heard why Freeney left to Seattle until very recently.
Summary: Freeney was hopeful Atlanta would re-sign him, they elected not to, he moved on. It’s a tale as old as time.
As Falcons Wire notes, Dan Quinn could some flak for this from angry fans, especially with the pass rush delivering hit or miss performances on a weekly basis. As I suggested earlier this week, though, the Falcons are clearly comfortable with their rotation at defensive end, to the point of having Vic Beasley start at strong side linebacker a week ago and likely continuing to do so in the future. The grouping of Derrick Shelby, Adrian Clayborn, Takk McKinley, Brooks Reed, and sometimes Courtney Upshaw and Beasley isn’t the NFL’s best, but it’s a deep and solid group. Quinn clearly felt comfortable with them throughout the weeks that Freeney was hoping for a phone call, and when Beasley went down and the team didn’t sign him, it became apparent they weren’t going to.
So we wish Freeney well in Seattle (though not against Atlanta), and we’ll hope the group here is good enough to help propel the Falcons into the playoffs. With Beasley and McKinley on hand, the future is very bright, at the very least.