The case to keep Freeney

Posted by Darren Urban on February 10, 2016 – 10:58 am

There were so many reasons last year to think that a pairing of the Cardinals and veteran pass rusher Dwight Freeney made sense, long before it actually happened. (The fact it took an injury to starter Alex Okafor to make it happen, and then to have Freeney perform as he did while Okafor somehow got hurt away from the team on playoff bye week, probably isn’t lost on the Cardinals.)

Freeney is a free agent. At his age — he turns 36 on Feb. 19 — he made clear both during the season and after that he is in year-to-year mode. He didn’t know if he was going to try and play in 2016, and if he did, there’s a question of whether the Cardinals will want to bring him back. But ESPN did a list of 10 “sleeper” free agents, and of them Freeney is one. The site notes Freeney had 36 pressures in just 264 snaps (and eight sacks, which is a pretty nice number for 264 snaps). For a team that is still looking to upgrade its pass rush, having Freeney around certainly cannot hurt.

Would Freeney take another lower-salary deal with incentives like he signed this season? Possible. Freeney made it clear he doesn’t want to play for a non-contender, so a) money can’t be everything and b) he definitely likes being with the Cardinals and Bruce Arians. He brings so much to the team besides QB pressures too; his ability to be a role model for younger rushers like Markus Golden is invaluable.

Freeney first has to decide if he wants to play again. If he does, it’ll be interesting to see what money that season he just had can generate. It’s possible he could wait it out and be a just-before-camp guy for the Cardinals. But I’d think as they put together the roster, if they see Freeney as a key component, that signing would come much sooner.


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44 Responses to “The case to keep Freeney”

  1. By azjam on Feb 10, 2016 | Reply

    Would love to have Freeney back with the Cards. Could rest him during Training Camp, just needs to stay in shape.

  2. By krehbieo14 on Feb 10, 2016 | Reply

    Great role model and player. An extremely articulate, intelligent addition to the team. Keim should pursue locking him up for this season on a one year deal. Brings depth to the defense with his pass rush ability.

  3. By Steve on Feb 10, 2016 | Reply

    Darren: Wouldn’t it depend on who the Cards select in the draft as to whether or not they want to keep Freeney?

  4. By Darren Urban on Feb 10, 2016 | Reply

    Steve —

    RE: Freeney

    It might. But then again, can it hurt to have Freeney along with a new pass rusher(s)?

  5. By texascard on Feb 10, 2016 | Reply

    Darren. Very good article. I believe we need freeney as well and the case you laid out is very accurate. The sun is setting on some of these players but they invaluable to hope of continuing success. I think much higher of golden than many on this board (and I am no expert) but I think having freeney stay is important to golden’s future stardom. Although I do wish freeney would have kept outside contain on his pass rush at times especially close to the end of regulation during packer playoff game

  6. By clssylssy on Feb 10, 2016 | Reply

    I loved having Freeney in a Cards uniform and credit him with a big part of our success. I really hope he will decide to hang with us at least another year and even would like to see him join the organization in a non-player capacity if he decides to retire. Even if we pick somebody up in the draft who is exceptional, it will take six months for them to get up to speed & would benefit from a mentor like Freeney. So much of our season we owe to having a strong veteran team infrastructure, and for the majority of these guys, their priorities have changed to being about the money to accomplishing their dreams and establishing a legacy.
    CJ and Freeney are two keepers…no risk/high gain/hunger for challenge.

  7. By clssylssy on Feb 10, 2016 | Reply

    …meant “to NOT being about the money…”

  8. By georgiebird on Feb 10, 2016 | Reply

    Cards have about the worst LB group in football- and the question is “should we bring Freeney back?”
    Answer is ” if he can get a sack
    bring him back !

  9. By georgiebird on Feb 10, 2016 | Reply

    Since the Freeney question is even being broached takes me to the age old question.
    Why does a team (Cards) who can’t develop LBs insist on playing a 3-4 defense where the LBs are the focal point.
    I’ve heard of being stubborn but this is big-time stubborn- it’s like Tony LaRussa stubborn or Bill Parcells stubborn or Bill Belichick stubborn. It’s the Super Bowl of Stubborn.

  10. By Darren Urban on Feb 10, 2016 | Reply

    Georgie —

    RE: 4-3/3-4

    Wait — you’ve been whining about this for how many years and it’s the Cardinals that are being stubborn?

  11. By Marlin on Feb 10, 2016 | Reply

    Loved him for the Cards this past year. But hoping he can do it again is a stretch. Spend the roster spot and money on other pass rush candidates. Being a role model is nice……but having 28 year old legs is better.

  12. By D on Feb 10, 2016 | Reply

    Yes on Freeney, a proven commodity (as long as the $ works out)

    Funny how now that the National Media attention got to see the Card’s weakness on a grand stage along with new Card fans that it sounds so easy to “just sign a pass rusher” As Darren has gone to great lengths over the years and we Card fans that have been paying attention, this subject for AZ is as old as Bernie Sanders. Feels like we have had this discussion for decades. Its not easy when you draft at the bottom of the rounds and have missed out the last few years on OLB’s that were taken before AZ’s draft spot. The $ these free agent pass rushers are demanding is as expensive as Peterson, Fitz and a franchise LT.

    The Cards have projects on their roster for pass rush in Kareem Martin, A. Fua and Shaq Riddick. Have a 4th round player in Okafor who appears has knuckle head himself out of the org and a second round draft player in M. Golden who did as well as expected.
    The Cards need an upgrade to Okafor and an upgrade to F. Rucker’s starting role. I like Frostee and for short periods of the season, he did well, but the Cards need to get younger and a more reliable pass rusher on the Dline.

  13. By DTL on Feb 10, 2016 | Reply

    M. Freeney: if he decides to climb that mountain agai & come back, open arms.

    C. Pamer: I have zero doubt in this guy, a leader of men and as dedicated as they come, physically getting better as he dedicates himself even more. Like him a lot. Better Qs: does Barkley makes team, competes for #2, do we draft competition. Not hearing a lot from BA on this yet…being patient…

  14. By John The Draft Guy on Feb 10, 2016 | Reply


    I would argue what LBs have they drafted that they can’t develop?

    A guy they drafted as a 3-4 DE, who now is an OLB in Martin? or 4th round picks like Acho , O Brien, and Okafor/

    I mean, you can go back to the 2007 draft, when we first started flirting with the 3-4 hybrid.

    That is 9 drafts. Nine. In the last 8 drafts We have only drafted one OLB in the first 3 rounds. Cody Brown.. This year, we took Marcus Golden.

    Passing on drafting Lamar Woodley, Anthony Spencer, Conner Barwin, Paul Kruger, Jerry Hughes, Robert Quinn (I believe could be OLB), Aldon Smith, Ryan Kerrigan, Justin Houston, Bruce Irvin, Melvin Ingram, Chandler Jones, Whitney Merciles, Oliver Vernon (who can play OLB), , Dee Ford, Demarcus Lawrence, Jeramiah Attaochu

    These 17 players all were drafted after the cards made their pick and all in the first 3 rounds, so no one is a surprise.

    Of the 17 players, 14 of the players recorded at least one year of double digits sacks. The 3 who didn’t are the 2014 group who are still rotating in.

    Point is, there have been plenty of OLBs we could have drafted. We could have a couple guys getting double digit sacks. I mean, how about a Justin Houston and Chandler Jones as a pair of pass rushers?

    Now let me say, there were plenty along the way that didn’t make it. That is not the point. If you know how to draft, you can find them.

    But 1 in the last 8 drafts ? How are we suppose to get a pass rush? With hopes of a 4th or 5th rounder to come through?

    You can’t develop what you don’t have.

  15. By Creditcard on Feb 10, 2016 | Reply

    If Freeney elects to play next year, I’m sure he would want to contractually have a limited number of snaps in order to keep his body fresh. Really not a big deal for the defense (limit number of snaps), and actually might be good for the defense over the entire season.

    However, it does have an adverse affect on special teams. Typically, your non-starters play special teams.

    I do believe Freeney not only is a good player, but a good mentor and role model for the younger players. He’s a keeper.

  16. By Scott H on Feb 10, 2016 | Reply

    Well, we can start with Freeney…as long as we plan on doing a whole lot more to improve the pass rush. At the right price, I would be happy to have him back.

  17. By CreditCard on Feb 10, 2016 | Reply


    What is the health status of Zack Wagenmann, the undrafted free agent from Montana? If I can remember right, he had something like 17-sacks his senior year, but went undrafted due to a (I think) a foot injury.

    There is a notion that players from small schools played inferior competition, and are not as good. However, the Cards have proven their success in grooming small school players.

    17-sacks is impressive. Have to think, a force like that — he was accustomed to being doubled teamed the entire season, and still reaching double digit in sacks. If he is healed — he very well might be a rookie the Cards are seeking.

  18. By Darren Urban on Feb 11, 2016 | Reply

    Credit —

    RE: Wagenmann

    I am guessing he will be healthy going into the offseason, but I haven’t checked on him of late.

  19. By Steve on Feb 10, 2016 | Reply

    Darren: Forgive those of us who are skeptical of the Cards brass when they say “we want to improve the pass rush.” They say it every year and yet the problem persists, other than finding a good QB the Cards lack of a pass rush has been a revolving theme with this team for a number of years. This team, I believe, needs to start taking some chances on guys who have some off the field issues yet are talented football players.

  20. By Big Ken on Feb 10, 2016 | Reply

    Coach K-phone home!

  21. By Xeano on Feb 10, 2016 | Reply

    Excellent article Darren. Thought it’s short, it’s a topic I don’t think many were considering. I personally would like to see him around another year. He’s not 25 anymore, but he did provide pressure, and I think we can give him credit for a win (Vs Minnesota.)

    Having him around for the veteran presence is necessary. His experience, as well as his invaluable advice he can provide will greatly help whoever the Cardinals are bringing in this season, as well as those we have (as you stated with Golden.)

    Darren, do you feel that Keim will stick with drafting the best player available? Or will he specifically target a pash rusher in the first round?

  22. By Darren Urban on Feb 11, 2016 | Reply

    Xeano —

    RE: Pass rusher in first

    Do I think pass rusher is going to be the top priority? Yes. Might they try to trade up to get one? Maybe (they tried last year to move up but were rebuffed.) Do I think they would take a pass rusher they grade at, say, 83 when they have another position they want and a guy they have graded as a 90? I doubt it.

  23. By red2616 on Feb 10, 2016 | Reply

    Why wouldn’t you? He gets sacks, he’s a leader, he worships Arians, he is an on field Coach, he wants to come back and he won’t break the bank. No Brainer. Dumb to let him go. If he asks for 10 Million a year which he won’t then no. But 1-2, sure.

  24. By Keith on Feb 11, 2016 | Reply


    Unrelated to thread, but do the Cardinals owe Philadelphia their 7th round pick this year? I think if Barkley was on the roater for 6 weeks, Az owed them a pick. But was it active game day roster, can you clarify? Also, I saw at least one mock draft project Az a 5th round compensatory pick. I hope so.

    And yes I am already looking at mock drafts? Miss me some football!!
    Beyond the obvious need for a pass rusher(s), I would like to see a center and punter drafted.

    And one last thing, shout out to Tyrann for a speedy and complete recovery!!

    Thanks for all you do….

  25. By Darren Urban on Feb 11, 2016 | Reply

    Keith —

    RE: Barkley

    Yes, the Cards gave the Eagles a pick.

    As far as comp picks, those come out in late March.

  26. By Daniel Thompson on Feb 11, 2016 | Reply

    Freeney was a beast……….best pass rusher by far and away, but he needs help, can’t do it alone……….Calais Campbell is a below average pass rusher.

  27. By Blake on Feb 11, 2016 | Reply

    Many players have great talent, but what makes Freeney special is his work ethic and effort matched his elite skill level. If his salary demands are reasonable I think the Cards should keep him for what his leadership/teaching abilities can mean to the development of our young players. And if he happens to play like he did last year, its all gravy. He seems to really like BA and one more year of playing for him might be enough to persuade him to stay on as a coach if he retires. Dude’s gonna be a great coach if he choses that path!

  28. By shannon robinson on Feb 11, 2016 | Reply

    Remember how Atlanta felt while Abrams was racking up a 10 sack year for the Cards, “way past his prime”. I’d hate to see him play for anyone else. He’s enough of a gentleman that we could have a hand shake agreement to bring him in after OTA’s but then again why not now? When Freeney made the strip sack on Bridgewater he had already played past his projected number of snaps in the game against a younger offensive tackle. He still had the adrenaline and drive to make that extraordinary play. I’d bring him back on the off chance he would do it for us again.

  29. By Steve on Feb 11, 2016 | Reply

    JTDG- Great post, I had no idea the Cards passed up all that talent, I mean we have lots of good scouts employed by the team and I have to wonder if some of them were banging the table for some of these players during our drafts but were overruled.

  30. By D on Feb 11, 2016 | Reply

    I have come to my conclusion after extensive research by my staff on the possible free agent pass rush players that should be available this spring and the chances of a pass rusher player at #29 in the draft.

    My results:

    Free agent impact player to sign: Bruce Irvin. OLB

    1- he had 8 sacks his rookie year when he was playing OLB
    he has improved and could a team 10 sacks a year if
    given the aggressive nature of AZ defense

    2- can play inside and outside as LB

    3- has the size AZ likes at OLB 6-3 260lb

    4- All other pass rusher players mentioned on the web:
    V. Miller, M. Wilkerson, T. Hali, G. Hardy either will
    be franchised, have issues, older or will be very expensive.
    (Not that Irvin won’t cost 9-10 mil a year)

    5- Age–Bruce is 29yrs old- still many good years ahead.

    6- His flexibility as a LB. If you sign him and also sign
    D. Freeney or keep Okafor, you can move Bruce
    to the inside role at times and have multiple options on who
    to rush the QB. (kevin minter can be substituted )

    7– It weakens the division rival. Let’s face it, as long as
    R. Wilson is playing in the NFC West, Seattle will always
    be the team AZ has to beat and Wilson has had AZ’s #

    8– The type of player you hate when on opposing teams
    but would love to have on AZ. He does trash talk.

    9– Proven player, unlike a OLB at #29 in the draft. This team
    has to win now as long as Palmer is healthy.

    10– Has a Super Bowl ring: Always good to have players
    on the team with that to motivate the young guys.

    First round of the draft: V. Butler DT

    Chances are not good that a N. Spence, or L. Floyd (little small for AZ)
    or a stud OLB will be there for the Cards.

    AZ has not replaced D. Docket. I would draft:
    V. Butler DT 6’4 325–a younger quicker Docket to provide a pass
    rush push to help Gunter and Campbell up front.
    The reason why Denver was so good this past year (and Carolina)
    is that those defenses can get pressure without blitzing a lot.


  31. By Rock on Feb 11, 2016 | Reply

    Darren, Will Okafor be on team in 2016? Will his off-field issue be shared with fans? If so, by whom and when? Thanks…….

  32. By Darren Urban on Feb 11, 2016 | Reply

    Rock —

    RE: Okafor

    I think those are both very good questions.

    Although I don’t know if there is an “issue” as much as when you get hurt on a bye week before the playoffs, that tends to reflect badly on how you are as a professional.

  33. By georgiebird on Feb 11, 2016 | Reply

    You know very little about Cardinals’ history and even less about Cardinals linebackers.
    In the past 55 years here’s a rundown on Cardinals linebackers:
    The best have been:
    1) Ken Harvey- who succeeded with the Redskins
    2) Jamir Miller- who had his best years with the Browns
    3) Daryl Washington- enough said
    Some other high profile guys:
    1) E.J. Junior- converted DE drafted early 1st round; not a bust but no great shakes. Made the Pro Bowl one year as a token Cardinal.
    2) Freddie Joe Nunn- converted DE drafted 1st round- above average; short injured career.
    The busts and the list of under-performing would fill a large rolodex.
    If the NFL would allow 100 new HOF inductees each year, the Cardinals would still not have a linebacker in the HOF.
    If I was putting together a list of the top Cardinals’ LBs over the past 55 years, Freeney with only a hand full of games might make the top 10.

  34. By D on Feb 11, 2016 | Reply

    How could you not include K Dansby Mr. Bird? He was a solid LB for the Cards for many years. E. Hill was better than Harvey. Seth Joyner may have only played a few years here, but he was still a good LB. No one would want to mess with Seth then and probably now.

    They should do a 30 for 30 on Freddie Jo Nunn, that guy did some crazy off the field stuff…I think I remember hearing during one of his binders he took a cab from Vegas back to Phx.

  35. By John The Draft Guy on Feb 11, 2016 | Reply


    If you are going to argue, you have to make sense. I don’t get your post at all.

    You say we need to move to a 4-3 because the cards cant develop LBs , then when I show you, since we converted to a 3-4, the cards just don’t draft LBs in the first 3 rounds, you start talking about LBs we had when we were a 4-3.

    What is your argument?

    BTW, you do understand that the cards have different staffs that coach. It isn’t Mr Bidwill out coaching the LBs the last 55 years.

    So, the only thing I can get from your post is, the cards for 55 years can’t develop LBs, Soooo, should we go to a 6 man front with 5 DBs???? I’m lost on your logic.

    Finally, both Ken Harvey and Jamir Miller were the perfect 3-4 outside LBs. Thus their success when the left our 4-3 and went to teams running 3-4’s. Miller put up 18 sacks in two years while Harvey put up 41 sacks in 5 years.
    Soooo, that kind of hurts your argument too.

  36. By Darren Urban on Feb 11, 2016 | Reply

    JTDG —

    RE: Linebackers

    I’ve had the argument with Georgie for years now about how the Cardinals from the 1960s … or 1970s … or 1980s … or 1990s … or even 2005 don’t matter in current context. He believes otherwise, apparently.

  37. By georgiebird on Feb 11, 2016 | Reply

    K Dansby was a good linebacker. A guy who never made the pro-bowl in his 1st tour with the Cards. Very disappointing at getting to the QB, KD became more of a cover LB- mostly found in the defensive backfield. He had a very good playoff game against the Packers. KD has had a long career but by no means outstanding for a guy drafted #33 overall
    Eric Hill- a 1st round draft choice with 9 career sacks in over 10 years
    Eric Hill better than Harvey?- Don’t be silly.

  38. By Scott H on Feb 11, 2016 | Reply

    D –

    100% agree with you – I think any discussion of the best players to play the LB position for this team HAS TO involve Karlos Dansby. Period. That man was a play-making machine for the Cardinals. Had a motor that never quit. Has played a long time, too, albeit not entirely with the Cardinals. I think some / possibly many were turned off by his I’m-just-looking-to-get-paid-and-I-don’t-care-by-who approach to free agency when he left here to go to Miami. But never mind that. When it came to just playing football between the lines, Dansby was a force. And definitely one of the best LB’s we have ever had.

  39. By georgiebird on Feb 11, 2016 | Reply

    When you talk about Karlos Dansby as being one of the all time best Cardinals’ linebackers, you just prove my point.

  40. By Scott H on Feb 12, 2016 | Reply

    George –

    Dude, I don’t even know what your point is! It doesn’t sound like anyone else does, either. Look, just because you may feel strongly about something, it doesn’t mean you are right / everybody else is wrong.

    We have more important things to worry about right now than who any of us think the best linebackers OF THE PAST have been. My focus is much more on what the TEAM is doing NOW and GOING FORWARD.

  41. By Scott H on Feb 12, 2016 | Reply

    george –

    To continue where I left off….you say that with my comments about Dansby, I am only proving your point. Well, if I did, it was purely coincidental because I don’t see a point being made. Really. I don’t see where you are making a point. I hear you expressing opinions about various LB’s from the Cardinals’ past. I hear opinions. Nothing more. Opinions are not points.

    I am responding with opinions of my own. Nothing more. Since I don’t hear a point being made, then how am I proving your point???

    Here is what I think is REALLY happening here – you obviously believe your opinions are fact. Since you believe your opinions are fact, then you must be making a point. And since you believe that your opinions are fact, then anyone who disagrees with them is wrong. Therefore, if my opinions disagree with yours, they must be wrong and they must prove your point.

    Meanwhile, no one even gets what your point is.

    Really, I think your only “point” here is your belief that I’m right, everyone else is wrong.

    Boy, that sure is original.

  42. By Big Ken on Feb 13, 2016 | Reply

    I keep reading Bruce Irvin will sign with Atlanta Falcons. Lots of big time edge rushers available at the end of round one. The Cardinals are in a good spot.

  43. By clssylssy on Feb 13, 2016 | Reply

    It seems that with the reality of the situation, every team in the league looking to sign the next Von Miller and the Cards near the end of the line for picking, a more realistic approach would be to try to sign somebody like Bruce Irvin while also developing the resources we have on Golden, Riddick,Okafer and keeping the strengths we have in tact…the “no fly zone” that includes Rashard Johnson & Powers. If the Jets cut Cro, perhaps he would be open to coming back to a team with a pretty good upside (he needs security with another kid). Our offensive line still needs improvement but we don’t have glaring needs this year and Freshen was edeveloping a rhythm with Palmer and some of these guys might see the advantage of a contract that would allow them to stay and have great success vs.taking a flyer on the unknown only to see their career stall or lose momentum. We DO need to get some help for our DC with playoff experience (which is nothing against our DC,just an observation).
    I like Michael Floyd as a big bodied receiver who has skills but who is inconsistent and doesn’t have the drive to ever be a number 1 receiver like Amari Cooper.
    While building through is idealistic,we have to remember where we are and think seriously about plan B.

  44. By John D on Feb 14, 2016 | Reply

    Freeney was awesome. I’d love to have him back but me personally I don’t feel he’s a down after down player anymore. The cardinals need a at all cost approach to finding physical pass rushers. Mario Williams,Alison Smith are physical players that can run through and around you. I hear people say Irvin from the Hawks and while I do believe he is a good player I remember him bashing the cardinals saying that the cardinals are who we thought they were. Maybe $$$$ changes that thought. Imo outside of my favorite player on the cardinals C. Campbell the cardinals do not have imposing front line players. Good players but not rip your head off and laugh in your face players. I liked Golden,respect frostee but that’s about it. 3-4 or 4-3 who craves just draft the strongest ,fastest,nastiest defensive front 7 .

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