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Dwight Freeney has NFL 'buzzing' as free-agent catch

Could a 33-year-old defensive end be the best pass-rusher on the free-agent market next month?

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The Cincinnati Bengals are expected to use the franchise tag on defensive end Michael Johnson. The Detroit Lions have been clearing salary-cap space to ensure defensive end Cliff Avril doesn't get away. That leaves Dwight Freeney, recently kicked to the curb by the Indianapolis Colts, and New York Giants free agent Osi Umenyiora as the premier 4-3 rush ends available.

Teams apparently are willing to write off Freeney's disappointing 4.5-sack-at-age-32 season as a byproduct of a season-long ankle injury and a poor fit as an outside linebacker in coach Chuck Pagano's 3-4 scheme.

According to SI.com's Peter King, the Colts' decision not to re-sign Freeney had the NFL "buzzing" over the weekend. In fact, one general manager already interested in Umenyiora told King that Freeney has passed the former Giants' pass-rusher on his free-agent board.

That news shouldn't come as a shocker. Umenyiora is getting long in the tooth himself, and Freeney always has been a superior all-around talent.

Deployed as a situational pass-rusher playing 50 to 70 percent of the snaps, Freeney could be the missing puzzle piece for the Atlanta Falcons, Seattle Seahawks or Giants.

Follow Chris Wesseling on Twitter @ChrisWesseling.

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