Out of all the questions I get from Falcons fans, the one concerning Dwight Freeney’s status probably has cropped up most often over the last couple of months. We know Freeney isn’t retiring, and we know he was a valuable player for the Falcons in 2017, but will he be back?
This a complex question, because we don’t yet know what the Falcons are planning to do in the NFL Draft, and that’s what will matter here. The Falcons added Jack Crawford to an already stout rotation of defensive ends, but very few of those players outside of Adrian Clayborn, Derrick Shelby, and of course Vic Beasley rank as decent pass rushers. Freeney’s not getting any younger, but he’s still one of the savviest pass rushers in recent memory. Guile and technique alone make him a better pass rusher than guys half his age, and he’d still likely be an asset for Atlanta in 2017.
Again, though, the draft. If the Falcons are intent on finding a long-term bookend for Vic Beasley on the edge—and they should be—they’re likely to go get one in the early rounds this April. That might mean a diminished role for Freeney if he should sign, or it might mean Atlanta’s set with its end depth and will elect not to re-sign him. There’s a pretty strong chance the Falcons just won’t bring him back, as terrific as he was a year ago as a player and a mentor for Beasley.
The upshot is that Freeney is a backup plan for the Falcons, who will hope to make an April splash and keep the team healthy through the summer, making Freeney a luxury at best. When Dwight Freeney is a potential fallback option, your team is a lot better off than it used to be. I think he’ll ultimately wind up signing elsewhere, however.