Future Hall of Fame defensive end Dwight Freeney had an impact on the Atlanta Falcons on and off the field last season. He generated consistent pressure and recorded three sacks in 15 games in 2016. He also played well in the playoffs, recording a sack in the NFC Championship game.
Off the field, however, Freeney was a valuable mentor for a very young Falcons defense. Second year breakout pass rusher Vic Beasley credited Freeney’s valuable experience as a major reason for his success in 2016. “He’s meant so much to me,” Beasley said of Freeney. “Bringing him on this team and into this organization has been a great help. He just preaches a work-hard mentality and compete at a high level and the way to prepare yourself each and every week.”
Falcons head coach Dan Quinn would welcome Freeney back in Atlanta, but with one condition. Quinn wants Freeney to participate in the team’s offseason program instead of sitting out until training camp.
“The standard is the standard,” Quinn told co-host Rick Neuheisel and me on SiriusXM NFL Radio. “If he decides he wants to do it, he’s got to be all in to do it. I don’t want to make special circumstances for anyone in any way.”
Freeney’s return would likely be in a rotational pass rusher role where his presence on first and second down is limited. The Falcons will likely add to their group of pass rushers this offseason with Freeney’s future uncertain and Adrian Clayborn returning from a torn bicep.