RENTON — Pete Carroll can never have enough pass rushers. Especially with the Seahawks missing Cliff Avril. Especially with Michael Bennett hurting and playing too much.
Those are the reasons Seattle signed Dwight Freeney.
The former Indianapolis Colts seven-time Pro Bowl defensive end announced on his Twitter account Tuesday night he had signed a free-agent contract with the Seahawks.
That was after a day at Seahawks headquarters to take a physical—and ultimately join the team for at least the final 10 games of this regular season.
Freeney was a perennial double-digit sack machine for the Colts: 13, 11, 16, 11, 10.5, 13.5 and 10 were his sack totals in seven of his first nine NFL seasons. Thing is, those were in the early 2000s. He was born when Jimmy Carter was president. That was in 1980.
Yes, he’s 37 years old— the same age as Seahawks’ defensive coordinator Kris Richard.
“Time to get loud, 12s. #GoHawks @Seahawks” Freeney posted on Twitter, over a picture of him and a Seahawks logo.
He already knows the lingo for the team’s fans. He assuredly also already knows his role.
Avril, one of Seattle’s Pro Bowl defensive ends, may not play again this season or ever. He is deciding whether to have neck surgery and is on injured reserve.
Bennett, Seattle’s other Pro Bowl end, is playing through a plantar-fascia injury in his right foot. He is barely practicing but is expected to play again Sunday against Houston. Bennett played 88 percent of the snaps in last weekend’s win at the New York Giants.
That’s an issue—even if he had two good feet. For the season, Bennett has played 283 of the defense’s 336 snaps. That’s 84 percent so far this season. That’s dangerously close to unsustainable, to his health and the productivity of the entire defensive front.
The Seahawks’ defensive line was at its best when it had Bennett and Avril playing in the 60-percent range of plays. That was when Seattle had the depth with Chris Clemons, Red Bryant and others to rotate in hockey-like line changes by series.
Wouldn’t you know it: That was in 2013, the season of the Seahawks’ only Super Bowl victory.
Freeney last played in January and February. He chased Russell Wilson in the NFC divisional playoff game his Falcons won over the Seahawks in Atlanta. Freeney had three sacks in 15 regular-season games last year for the Falcons, then another sack in Super Bowl 51 in February, of Tom Brady in New England’s win over Atlanta. The Falcons let his contract expire after that game. He hasn’t played since.
Freeney has 122.5 sacks in his 15-year career. If he signs and re-enters the league, that would be second among active players behind Julius Peppers.
He will also be a situational pass rusher for Seattle, perhaps 15-20 snaps per game. The every-down role Avril used to have is currently Frank Clark’s. Marcus Smith, Quinton Jefferson and Branden Jackson are Seattle’s other defensive ends.
With those names, with Bennett hurting and without Avril, the Seahawks saw an obvious need to see what Freeney has left.