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It was reported this morning that the Indianapolis Colts are fielding telephone calls from teams interested in All Pro defensive end Dwight Freeney. The eight-time Pro Bowl pass rusher is the Colts' all-time leader in sacks (102.5) but is owed $19 million toward the salary cap in 2012. He reportedly is unwilling to restructure his contract, which has prompted Indianapolis to put him on the trade wire.
According to Len Pasquarelli of the Sports Xchange, the Chicago Bears are very interested in making a deal for Freeney.
"If, as indicated by an ESPN report on Friday, the Colts are listening to offers for defensive end Dwight Freeney, word is that the Chicago Bears, who want to find a pass-rush partner for Julius Peppers, will be one of the teams in their ears," Pasquarelli wrote today.
Freeney has played his entire 11-year career in Indianapolis working in the same Cover 2 system run in Chicago. He's a speed rusher that has earned double digit sacks in all but three of his seasons in the NFL. Freeney is also a master of the strip-sack, as evidenced by his 43 career forced fumbles. He doesn't offer much as a run stopper but there are few better pure 4-3 pass rushers in the game.
Chicago got 5.0 sacks out of Israel Idonije last season, which is pretty low number when you consider the amount of double teams Peppers commands on the other side. In the Cover 2 scheme, pressure needs to come up front. Freeney would be able to collapse the pocket consistently, something in which Idonije failed.
Idonije is a free agent and has been lauded for his ability against the run. Yet he's 31 and appears to be on the downside of his career. Chicago needs someone who can be more productive on passing downs.
Freeney would be an ideal fit. The Colts reportedly will only trade Freeney for what they consider the right price. He's 32 years old, and his sack total dropped from 13.5 in 2010 to 8.5 in 2011, so an interested team could get him at a relative discount. The Bears have an extra third round selection in this year's draft – picked up from the trade of Greg Olsen last offseason – which could be enough to land Freeney.
The problem is that Freeney is owed $14 million in base salary next season, which would be a heavy hit to Chicago's salary cap, especially for a player that is past his prime. If the club was to drop that much cash on Freeney, it's unlikely they could seriously pursue other big-name free agents like Vincent Jackson and Carl Nicks.
Yet by pairing Freeney with Peppers, the Bears would be able to bring a dual edge rush unmatched in the league, one that would cover up a lot of the deficiencies in the secondary.
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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of Bear Report magazine and BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.