Dwight Freeney (left), the Cardinals' newest linebacker, talks with team president Michael Bidwill as he signs his contract.
WHITE SULPHER SPRINGS, W. Va. – With Alex Okafor down, the Cardinals needed a pass rusher, and Bruce Arians just happened to once upon a time coach an available veteran who could help.
Dwight Freeney liked the idea of reuniting with Arians, who coached Freeney in Indianapolis in 2012, and Freeney's one-year contract was officially completed Tuesday.
It wasn't the first time the two had talked about the possibility, only the most important.
"There were talks," Freeney told azcardinals.com. "I was on the golf course – I golf a little bit, or at least I try to golf a little bit – and I texted him one day and said, 'Man, you have to get me off this golf course,
my swing is going all the way down.' He was like, 'Stay in shape and keep ready.'
"That's what I did. He finally called me."
The 35-year-old outside linebacker played the last two seasons with the Chargers before being cut in the spring. Arians told Arizona Sports 98.7 the original consideration of bringing in Freeney went away as the Cardinals liked the play of their young outside linebackers. Then Okafor and inside linebacker Kenny Demens got hurt in Detroit.
"There wasn't an opportunity and now there is an opportunity," Arians said.
Demens, who tore his ACL, was put on injured reserve to create the roster spot for Freeney. While there has been no official update on Okafor's right calf injury, reports have Okafor possibly missing a month.
As of now, the starting outside linebackers are LaMarr Woodley and rookie Markus Golden, who have been splitting reps on the other side from Okafor. The inexperienced Kareem Martin and rookie Shaq Riddick are the other outside linebackers on the roster.
Freeney said despite his time on the sideline, he shouldn't take long to contribute.
"I've been ready," Freeney said. "When I say I'm on the golf course, that's only two hours before I throw
my clubs and I go back to doing what I do. I've been training and working hard, because I knew there was going to be a call at some point. I had to be ready for when a team called. I feel young. I'm a young 35. Young."
Freeney reportedly signed for the minimum salary (plus incentives), which for a player of his experience is $970,000. Pro-rated to 12 weeks is would be about $685,000. ESPN reported Freeney could earn $200,000 more with four sacks, and another $100,000 per sack after that up to 12.
Freeney has been a free agent since the Chargers cut him in the spring. Playing all 16 games for San Diego last season, he had 3½ sacks and generally provided decent pressure on the quarterback. The 35-year-old Freeney has 111½ sacks as he starts his 14th NFL season.
Profootballfocus.com credited Freeney with 53 quarterback pressures last season, which was sixth-most among 3-4 outside linebackers.
"He's still around the quarterback a lot and he gives you a lot of edge presence," Arians said.
Freeney called the Cardinals "like a home away from home for me." He not only knows Arians, but he was coached by Cardinals defensive coordinator James Bettcher, played with fellow defenders Jerraud Powers and Cory Redding and even knows Colts-turned-Cardinals assistant equipment manager Jeff Schwimmer.
Plus, he's joining a team that's pretty good so far.
"The perspective I've had the last four or five weeks, I've been watching kind of where the chips are falling, who the great teams are and who aren't," Freeney said. "This is definitely one and I'm excited to be a part of this. I just love the game and however I have to help this team out or however they need me to help, I'm here."
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