Recently, there has been a lot of talk amongst Colts fans about the possibility of bringing pass rusher Dwight Freeney back. The veteran is still looking for work after a successful 2015 season with the Cardinals, and the Colts really need pass rush help.
I've written about how I think signing Freeney is a move the Colts should make but that I considered unlikely to actually happen. Today, ESPN's Mike Wells took it a step further when he reported that he has been told the Colts haven't been in any sort of discussions with Freeney.
Was told Colts have NOT had any discussions with Dwight Freeney. They want to develop their young pass rushers https://t.co/YoxjSUPBeF— Mike Wells (@MikeWellsNFL) May 21, 2016
The Colts do have young pass rushers, but no one that is realistically expected to make a significant impact this year. Earl Okine is moving from defensive line to outside linebacker, Trevor Bates was drafted in the seventh round, and Ron Thompson and Curt Maggitt were signed as undrafted free agents. In other words, outside of Robert Mathis and Trent Cole (who are 35 and 33 years old, respectively), the Colts have several others guys all 26 or younger but who were either undrafted (three of them) or drafted in the seventh round (one). That means they will need developing, and it sounds like the Colts are committed to doing that.
Long-term, that could wind up being a good thing. If the Colts have enough confidence that these guys could turn into legitimate pass rushers down the road with some coaching, then it makes sense to keep working with them. That has never been a question; the question has been whether they will do so at the expense of the present. Right now, the Colts' pass rush doesn't exactly inspire a lot of high hopes, and instead the coaches have mentioned how they think coaching and schemes can help create pass rush help. In other words, they realize the talent level isn't great. The signing of Freeney would not neccessarily get in the way of long-term development of younger guys because everyone would understand that Freeney is just a one-year option, not someone who is going to take reps away from these guys for a few years. It would allow the younger pass rushers to learn from three very productive veterans (Freeney, Mathis, and Cole) while not placing the pressure on them right away to produce.
Essentially, what the Colts are doing is gambling on Robert Mathis, Trent Cole, and others (like Erik Walden and Kendall Langford) to be enough for their pass rush this year while working with some of the younger talent on potentially developing into legitimate threats rushing the quarterback. If it works, the coaching staff will look like geniuses. But if it doesn't? Even more fans may be left wondering why they passed up other options this offseason.