FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn said the addition of 36-year-old Dwight Freeney is about enhancing the pass rush and not necessarily related to mentoring young pass-rushers such as Vic Beasley Jr.
"That certainly wasn’t the case, to bring him in to mentor," Quinn said. "But what I can tell you is this: Any time a guy has had really good success, there’s things to gain from that. And some of that’s coming from the younger player asking those questions, too. ... But we didn’t bring him here to coach. We brought him here to rush."
Freeney, who has 119.5 career sacks and 47 forced fumbles, will receive $2 million up front and possibly another $2 million based on sacks, according to ESPN’s Ed Werner. Last year with Arizona, the seven-time Pro Bowler registered eight sacks and three forced fumbles in 11 games, including three sacks of Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers. He played 245 defensive snaps.
Quinn said it was too early to say how many snaps Freeney might play, adding it will depend on the opponent. The Falcons will face the top two quarterbacks in pass attempts from last season in San Diego’s Philip Rivers (661) and New Orleans’ Drew Brees (627), although Brees tends to get the ball out quickly. Expect to see a lot of Freeney in those two games, among others.
"For us, the role that we’ll see him and that I’ve explained to him is he’s going to be one of our nickel rushers," Quinn said. "That’s the role that we’ll feature him and add him as part of the team. And that’s what he and I discussed and that’s the area that I’m going to put the most focus on."
The attention Freeney is likely to draw with his speed rush and spin move could free up one-on-on opportunities for others. The Falcons had a league-low 19 sacks last season, led by Beasley with four. The low sacks numbers contributed to the Falcons ranking 27th in the league in third-down defense, allowing opponents to convert 43 percent of the time.
Beasley, who showed flashes of his playmaking ability during Wednesday’s practice, talked about the addition of Freeney.
"Yeah, I’m looking forward to it," Beasley said. "He’s a great a pass-rusher and he’s been playing in the league for quite a number of years. It will be great for me to be able to learn from him."
Added defensive end Adrian Clayborn: "It’s Dwight Freeney, so it’s going to do nothing but make us better. It’s going to be interesting to see where he fits at. And it’s going to be a good thing because we need it, obviously. We were last in the league last year. Freeney only makes us better."
Quinn said Freeney will fly in Thursday and go through a physical.
"And then we’ll start getting him acclimated into the system, starting really from Friday, Saturday, Sunday and into next week," Quinn said.
The Falcons have a Friday night practice and then Saturday off. Their first preseason game is next Thursday night against the Washington Redskins at the Georgia Dome.