Colts fans know that outside of Peyton Manning no player has had as much impact on the fortunes of the Colts in recent years as Dwight Freeney. In many ways, he is actually underrated. Outsiders see his sack totals but write him off as a one dimensional player and move on. Colts fans know that Freeney plays the run just fine, but the Colts don’t want him to. Defending the run is not nearly as important as pressuring the quarterback. Beyond that, his impact cannot be measured simply by sacks or even forced fumbles. He also is always among the league leaders in quarterback pressures.
Let’s leave all that aside for a moment. Freeney’s value to the Colts is extraordinary, but it will have to manifest itself in measurable ways. That means sacks.
Of the top 10 all time eligible sack leaders, only six are in the Hall of Fame.
Here’s who hasn’t made it yet:
Kevin Greene (5 PB, 2 AP, 10 seasons of 10+ sacks, 160 total sacks, 23 FF, 0 SB)
Chris Doleman (8 PB, 2 AP, 8 seasons of 10+ sacks, 155 total sacks, 44 FF, 0 SB)
Richard Dent (4 PB, 1 AP, 8 seasons of 10+ sacks, 137.5 total, 37 FF, 1 SB)
Leslie O’Neal (6 PB, 0 AP, 8 seasons of 10+ sacks, 132.5 total, 21 FF, 0 SB)
Of those four, Doleman and Dent seem to have the best shot at enshrinement. Dent has been a finalist already. Green and O’Neal aren’t viewed as being as ‘elite’ as Doleman and Dent. O’Neal was never an All Pro, and Green was something of a third down specialist.
There are also several all-time sack leaders near the top who aren’t yet eligible:
Michael Strahan (7 PB, 4 AP, 6 seasons of 10+ sacks, 141.5 total, 24 FF, 1 SB)
Jason Taylor (6 PB, 3 AP, 6 seasons of 10+ sacks, 127.5 total, 43 FF, 0 SB)
Both have strong resumes and will eventually be inducted.
What does 93 have to do?
Let’s be honest. If his resume doesn’t reach the territory of the guys on this page, he has no chance. Right now, his looks like this:
Dwight Freeney (5 PB, 3 AP, 6 seasons of 10+ sacks, 84 total, 35 FF, 1 SB)
First the good news:
Dwight Freeney has most of the ‘quality’ stats he needs. All Pro nods mean more than Pro Bowls. He has three already, which is more than everyone on this list but Strahan. He has a Super Bowl ring, and no one on the list has more than one. Super Bowl rings matter to Hall of Fame voters. Now, you could argue that they shouldn’t, but the fact is that they do. Should the Colts win a second Super Bowl in the Freeney era, it will greatly help his case. That ankle injury he suffered last January could come back to haunt all of us for years. Freeney is in the ballpark in terms of forced fumbles as well. One more high quality, All Pro-type season would more than cover Freeney in terms of ‘peak’ years.
The bad news:
Freeney still needs volume to his numbers. 84 total sacks is nice, but only 39th all time. He’ll pick up about 8 spots for every 10 sacks he collects until he hits the 120s. Freeney needs 40 more sacks to get to 124, which would put him right on the line of consideration for the Hall of Fame. Freeney just turned 30 years old, however. He has 33 sacks in his last four seasons (half of one was lost to injury). He essentially has to continue producing sacks at a comparable rate well into his mid 30s in order to have a strong shot at the Hall of Fame.
The good news is that most of the truly gifted, Hall of Fame DEs continued producing well into their 30s. The next few years will tell the story for Dwight Freeney. If he posts 3-4 more seasons of double digit sacks, he’ll be on the cusp of Canton. Freeney is far and away the youngest member of the top 40 all time in sacks. He’s got the quality. Now all he needs is career longevity to make him a bonafide Hall of Famer.