Dwight Freeney may have a couple good pass-rushing years left in him.
Potential suitors need to study him and decide if they think he does, projecting what he can do and signing him based on that.
What potential suitors should not do is sign him because they believe he can mentor and help mold and shape younger pass-rushers.
We’re circling back to an annual theme at free-agent time here.
With 53-man rosters, an NFL team that is well put together can’t afford a spot for a guy who’s brought in for mentoring if it’s not layered on top of production. It’s simply a luxury a team can’t afford.
Ideally, at every position, teams have a veteran leader who sets the tone and shows the way. But he has to do more than that.
While having a guy who’s been there and done that can be important, we can also overrate the influence.
Young players generally want that guy to lean on, but they shouldn’t have to look at his résumé to know why he’s qualified to lead; they should only need to look at his play.
Teams have men who are employed to help a unit perfect its technique, understand its opponent, be ready and able to play effectively on Sundays.
They are called coaches.
A lot of readers of this blog have tweeted me asking about Freeney and the Titans.
A year ago I thought Tennessee should have considered dealing for him if he would have substantially scaled down his contract. The Colts held on to him. He was miscast as an outside linebacker with Indianapolis. Even so, his lack of production was a concern and he certainly isn’t going to be a long-term solution for a new team.
Going forward, he’s got the best chance of helping a 4-3 team that plays indoors on turf. That's a pretty limited list.
Atlanta is one team that makes a lot of sense to me. (NFL South blogger Pat Yasinskas sees it as a possibility as well.)
Freeney isn’t the only guy in this category.
But only a specific kind of team can afford to add them when weighing the potential that an aging safety is slowing and getting hurt more often, missing games.
Teams can’t be wowed by the Hall of Fame credentials of a Freeney, Woodson or Reed.
They can’t afford to bring in leadership if it doesn’t come with production.
These guys fit best on teams that aren’t too far away, where they can amount to bonus players instead of guys a team is super-reliant on. Reed to Indianapolis could make sense in that way.
I’m not sure about any of them being a very good fit anywhere else in the division.