The 36-year-old pass-rusher posted 8.0 sacks with the Cardinals in 2015.
The Falcons will get their first opportunity to see what Dwight Freeney has left in the tank in Thursday’s preseason tilt with the Browns. D. Orlando Ledbetter for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports the 15th-year veteran will see an unknown number of snaps in the first quarter.
“It’s not going to be a lot, but it will be enough to get where I feel comfortable with him in the groove, him playing, him feeling good in the technique,” Falcons head coach Dan Quinn said. “Once he starts to feel that way, that’s when I’ll pull him. It’s somewhere in a quarter. It’s his first game so it won’t be a lot, but it will be enough to get him going.”
Freeney is expected to line up at defensive end on third downs in the Falcons’ nickel package. The team will no doubt monitor his playing time closely, particularly during the preseason. At his age, a full-time role would run the risk of wearing down or exposing the seven-time Pro Bowler.
Then again, the Falcons could use all the help they can get up front. Atlanta ranked dead last in the NFL in 2015 with just 19 sacks — Freeney had almost half that number himself last season as a situational pass-rusher.
Another potential upside for the Falcons is the knowledge Freeney can impart to 2015 first-round draft pick Vic Beasley. While Beasley showed promise in his rookie season, racking up a team-high 4.0 sacks, there is much he can learn from a player who currently ranks 19th in NFL history with 119.5.
“I think Vic is a tremendous talent,” Freeney said. “He has a lot to learn. The upside is absolutely amazing for him. I’m going to try to help him out as much as I can.
At this point, there’s no telling when Freeney will run out of gas, but he was well worth kicking the tires on for a defense as desperate as the Falcons’. We’ll see whether it begins paying off beginning Thursday night.