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Dwight Freeney: Preference is to return to Arizona, but key is winning team

Dwight Freeney needed only 11 games to lead the Arizona Cardinals in sacks last season.

It was as much an indictment on Arizona’s somewhat lackluster pass rush as it was a sign that the then-35-year-old still had plenty left in the tank. In truth, the veteran and the Cardinals were a perfect match in 2015, providing each other with something they sorely needed.

For Freeney, it was a team to give him a chance; for the Cardinals, it was a much-needed pass rushing presence.

Since last season ended, the Cardinals went out and acquired pass rusher Chandler Jones from the New England Patriots and added defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche in the draft. It is believed that they, along with Markus Golden, Calais Campbell and Alex Okafor — among others — will help Arizona apply more pressure to quarterbacks in 2016.

Meanwhile, Freeney sits and waits as an unrestricted free agent.

“There’s been some interest,” he told ESPN’s SportsCenter Thursday. “The thing is, when you’re I guess as old as me — not really old in life but old in football — those teams want to kind of figure out what they want to do. They want the young guys, they have their draft picks.

“So an older guy like me, who has been playing for a while, and I don’t know — I’m not saying I’m playing for another five years — but I can give you a couple more. They’re going to take their time and that’s OK with me. I’m not complaining, I’m here.”

Not long after last season ended with the Cardinals losing in the NFC Championship Game to the Carolina Panthers, Freeney said he would take a little time to decide on whether or not he wanted to play a 15th season. Since then, he has made it clear he wants to continue a career that has seen him play for the Indianapolis Colts and San Diego Chargers as well as the Cardinals.

Freeney’s 119.5 career sacks are 19th in the NFL all-time and, following Jared Allen’s retirement, place him third among active players. While not the dominant player he was in his prime, it was clear last season he could still help a team, which makes it a little curious that he has not yet signed a deal somewhere.

Things could always change, of course, and knowing that Freeney said all he will continue to do is stay in shape and be ready for when a team calls looking for his services. He hopes is the right time reaches out, and when asked who that might be, he mentioned the Cardinals.

“Obviously I have some ties there, but you know what, if it doesn’t work out here it could be anywhere,” he said. “It just depends. It has to be a winning team, something that I would love to be a part. I’m used to winning; it’s not great to be part of a losing organization, so for me, if they have a chance of winning and doing some great things, you know what, I’m there.”

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