It’s been going on so long it’s practically a ritual for aging, underemployed NFL superstars: Curling like a hungry cat through the legs of the Patriots, hoping loud purring results in a job, paycheck and chance at a ring.
No shame in it. Just business.
Dwight Freeney was at it – mildly – in Peter King’s Monday Morning Quarterback column. The 36-year-old pass-rushing maven is without a home after one season with the Cardinals in which he had eight sacks.
Freeney’s pitch is that he’s a talented temp, telling King, “I mean, nothing hurts. I consider myself an anomaly. How I eat, how I train -- that’s the reason why I know I can still play at a high level for another year.”
Asked specifically about the Patriots, Freeney -- a long-time New England foe as an Indianapolis Colt -- said, “Well, that’s hard to fathom. But I’m not against Bill [Belichick]. I understand the dynamic involved, but at the end of the day, this is a business. My first allegiance right now is to Arizona, if they’re interested. But if it happened that I ended up in New England, I can tell you, both sides would win.”
Before considering Freeney, first consider how dire the need is for a pass-rusher.
Obviously, trading Chandler Jones to the Cardinals meant they lost a very good edge rusher, but having Jabaal Sheard, Rob Ninkovich and Chris Long at the top of the depth chart along with Trey Flowers and Geneo Grissom ready to contribute as well means the Patriots cupboard isn’t bare. Freeney isn’t going to be as complete a player as any of them. He just comes off the edge, spins like a dreidel and tries to destroy quarterbacks, running game be damned. But there could be a call for that. So place the need at about a five.
The Patriots did entertain the idea of Freeney previously. In 2013, after being released by the Colts, Freeney stopped by Foxboro for a March visit before signing with the Chargers.
At the time, Freeney said, "That's a great organization over there, they have won a lot of games, have a lot of great players. I would be honored to play for anybody, especially that type of organization."
The Patriots developed a high regard for Freeney during his decade as a destructive force with the Colts. In 2011 -- the year Peyton Manning was down with his neck injury -- Tom Brady said before playing the Colts in November, "I wish [Freeney] was out this week. He’s in there again. He’s a phenomenal player. If I could be a defensive end, I'd be like him . . . Coach Belichick said this morning that I think Freeney's got like [99.5] career sacks and  forced fumbles. So almost half the time he sacks you, he strips the ball from you. He’s a great player."
That Freeney is long gone. And it’s worth wondering if this Freeney is interested -- at 36 -- in getting ground into sawdust during conditioning over the summer as the Patriots tend to do. It wasn’t something Reggie Wayne enjoyed last year. Others in positions similar to Freeney -- like defensive end Andre Carter-- were fine with it.
One little aside on this dalliance: When Freeney was with the Colts, he made comments about Belichick that were pretty pointed. Back in 2008, Belichick wondered why Manning, who’d had offseason knee surgery, wasn’t listed on the injury report with an ailment so many were discussing at the time.
Freeney soon shot back, “Coming from Bill Belichick, that’s frickin’ hilarious. [Then-Colts coach Tony Dungy was] not going to (mess with injury reports). He’s not that type. That’s the type of stuff Bill does. That’s just the type of mentality Bill has and they have as a team. Every week last season, frickin’ Tom Brady was on the damn injury report with an ankle or whatever, and he was playing every week. That’s just the kind of stuff they do. So don’t come out and try to act like we’re doing something with our report.”