Although it’s quite clear that the San Diego Chargers aren’t the only team in the competition to sign Dwight Freeney, they might be the most in-need and enthusiastic about the prospect of adding him thanks to the season-ending injury to Melvin Ingram. How badly do they want Freeney? To the point where head coach Mike McCoy admits to be willing to change and tweak his defense accommodate the veteran defensive end.
Freeney has been on a constant decline over the last four seasons, even in the 4-3 system. From 13.5 sacks in 2009 to 10 sacks in 2010 to 8.5 sacks in 2011 and a disappointing 5 sacks last season , playing as an outside linebacker in Chuck Pagano’s 3-4 defense that doesn’t really suit Freeney’s talents, who is fifth among active players with 107.5 career sacks and is a three-time First Team All-Pro.
The Chargers have already made a minor backup plan come to life by signing Thomas Keiser, who last played for the Carolina Panthers. A surprising start in 2011 turned into a disappointing 2012 for him, limited by an elbow injury. In case Freeney doesn’t sign, there’s a chance Keiser will get a second chance to show he can be a consistent pass-rush threat in the NFL.
The Chargers, who play in a 3-4 defense, lost two linebackers to free agency this off-season: Antwan Barnes (New York Jets) and Shaun Phillips (Denver Broncos), which made Ingram their top option on the edge after not getting too many chances during his rookie season. He got injured during organized team activities this week, and is out for the season.
Freeney has been courted by plenty of teams this off-season, but until this month he actually thought he might be able to be signed for around $6 million a season. The NFL Draft and reality hit him in the face, and it seems it’s no longer a matter of money, but just finding someone who can give him a job, and a minimal number of snaps each game.