<
>

Pass-rusher Dwight Freeney always on Falcons' radar

Tuesday's news that the Seattle Seahawks released veteran defensive end Dwight Freeney certainly raised eyebrows among Atlanta Falcons fans.

Freeney, the seven-time Pro Bowler with 125.5 career sacks, showed he had something left when he recorded three in four games in Seattle. But Freeney's release came one day after the Seahawks failed to get much pressure on Matt Ryan, who completed 14 of 18 passes for 126 yards with two touchdowns when not blitzed -- as noted by ESPN Stats & Information -- in Monday's 34-31 Falcons win.

Freeney, 37, is now subject to waivers. He made $58,824 per game as part of a prorated $1 million salary. The contract also included an $8,000 bonus per game active.

The Falcons probably won't make a move this week, meaning putting in a claim for Freeney is highly unlikely. But could the Falcons look into re-signing him if he clears waivers? It's possible.

Falcons coach Dan Quinn said going into the Seattle game that he had serious discussions with general manager Thomas Dimitroff about bringing Freeney back. But Quinn didn't want to take away from the current group of pass-rushers as they continue to grow as a unit, including reigning NFL sack champ Vic Beasley Jr. and talented rookie Takkarist McKinley.

Consider also that Freeney rushes off the right edge, where Adrian Clayborn is having a career year with a team-leading eight sacks to go with 12 quarterback hits -- not to mention his 10-yard fumble return for a touchdown against the Seahawks. In other words, you don't want to do anything to disrupt Clayborn's flow, being that he's not a full-time player anyhow.

That said, Quinn has the utmost respect for Freeney and has said numerous times that he'd never rule out signing him. Such would indicate that there could be a place for Freeney; if he wants to continue playing, he would certainly want to join a contender. And the Falcons currently are the sixth seed in the NFC playoff picture. If any of the Falcons' pass-rushers were to get injured, Freeney would be a natural fit. There is also the mentorship aspect he brings, an element the young Falcons benefited from last season during a Super Bowl run.

"How to rush as a whole, I think that's the biggest thing I took from him," Beasley said of Freeney.

The Falcons have under $1 million in cap space, according to various reports. This is Freeney's 16th season, and the minimum salary for a player with 10-plus credited seasons is $1,000,000.