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Dimitroff: Atlanta Falcons focused on their young pass rushers, won’t immediately re-sign Freeney

Fact: Dwight Freeney can balance a toothpick on his nose

NFL: NFC Championship-Green Bay Packers at Atlanta Falcons Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Falcons pass rush has taken a lot of heat over the years. Sure, they’ve had some dominant individual pass rushers: Chuck Smith, John Abraham, and Patrick Kerney come to mind. But overall, they’ve had a difficult time pressuring opposing quarterbacks. What’s more, that’s ultimately limited the quality of the defenses they’ve fielded.

Luckily that all started to change in 2016. Vic Beasley led the league with his 16.5 sacks last season. Grady Jarrett racked up three sacks in the Super Bowl. Then came the offseason, where the Falcons signed Dontari Poe and drafted Takkarist McKinley. Suddenly the Falcons front seven is intimidating, getting looks from neutral football critics.

So where does that leave Dwight Freeney? The Falcons benefited from his role as a part-time player and mentor last season. At various points during the off-season, we’ve speculated about the possibility he’d be re-signed. Now it looks like it won’t happen. In fact, if it does happen, it will only be because something has gone horribly wrong.

“Dwight respectfully aside, in any situation when you’re looking at a group, you have to get through the preseason to see where you are with injuries and where you are with development,” Dimitroff said. “That’s something that’s on our mind. We’re not going into it thinking about (Freeney). We’re going in thinking about the development of our guys, our young guys like (Takk McKinley), and merging our new guys with our team.”

This doesn’t mean Freeney won’t find his way back to Flowery Branch. Stuff happens, whether we like it or not. Dimitroff’s approach makes a lot of sense, for now. There’s a lot of young talent on this football team, and there’s only 53 spots (and the practice squad) to work with.

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