Indianapolis Colts games just won’t be the same without ol’ 93 out there, terrorizing opposing quarterbacks. Colts all-time sack leader Dwight Freeney signed two-year deal with the San Diego Chargers on May 18, 2013.
It is reportedly a two-year deal worth as much as $8.75 million. Under the terms of the contract, he will be paid a $3.25 million signing bonus on top of a $1.5 million base salary, for a total of $5.75 million. The deal includes also includes incentives that, if triggered, could pay out an additional $4.5 million over the next 2 years.
It’s always strange to see former Colts players in non-Colts uniforms. Its a stark reminder that the NFL is every bit as much a business as it is a sport. It is a business that can ill-afford such things as loyalty and sentimentality.
Since his being drafted by the Colts in 2002 Freeney helped redefine the defensive end position, and defied critics who said he lacked the size to play the position at an elite level. He was voted to 7 Pro Bowls and was one of the Colts’ consistent playmakers, year after year. But when Chuck Pagano took over as head coach, the Colts moved to a 3-4 defensive scheme, which quite frankly was not well-suited to Freeney’s skill set as an edge rusher. In 2012, he had just 5 sacks working as an outside linebacker.
Tom Telesco, former Vice President of Football Operations for the Colts, left Indianapolis to become the San Diego Chargers’ new General Manager. So he clearly knows Freeney better than most executives. And Freeney knows him, which might partly explain why San Diego was an appealing destination; that and the year-around 70-degree temperatures. Also, there is the tangential fact that the Chargers’ defensive coordinator is John Pagano, the brother of Colts head coach Chuck Pagano.
It will be interesting to see how well Freeney fits into the Chargers’ system. Even though he struggled last year in the OLB position for the Colts from a statistical standpoint, opponents felt his presence, and the Colts’ defense was noticeably better with him on the field. Also not aiding his performance was a lingering high ankle sprain he suffered in the pre-season.
It remains to be seen how the Chargers will use him. It is conceivable he would be used as a situational pass rusher in its nickel package.
“His proven pass-rush ability is a perfect fit for our defense,” coach Mike McCoy said on the Chargers’ website.
Bill Polian, former Colts GM and President of Operations, told ESPN, “There’s no question he can fit with that scheme. You take Dwight, you get his hand on the ground and play him for 30 to 40 snaps (and) let him get after the quarterback.”
But not everyone agrees. Former coach Tony Dungy told ESPN, “I think Dwight needs to play at right end and as a third-down pass rusher.”
The Chargers were suddenly motivated to find a quality pass rusher when second-year linebacker Melvin Ingram tore his ACL during offseason workouts. And this was on top of losing Shaun Phillips and Antwan Barnes to free agency just weeks earlier.
The Colts will face the Chargers in San Diego on October 18 of this year. How will the new Colts offensive line hold up against one of the best pass rushers in the game? Will Andrew Luck be able to elude Freeney if if he slips past Anthony Castonzo? We’ll have to wait and see. All we know for now is that Freeney will still wear a blue jersey, albeit a decidedly different shade.