Detroit Lions new head coach Matt Patricia sure loves his linebackers. On Monday, the Lions announced that they have signed their third new linebacker of the free agency period. The newest member of the Lions linebacking corps is Jonathan Freeny.
Freeny reportedly visited with the Lions earlier in free agency, but the Lions took their time in signing him.
Perhaps the most notable thing about Freeny is his familiarity with Patricia. From 2015 to 2016, Freeney played in 18 games (started 11) and totaled 60 tackles and 1.0 sacks. He would later re-join the Patriots for just a single game in 2017, but he has otherwise bounced around team-to-team since entering the league as a undrafted rookie out of Rutgers in 2011.
Another thing that probably won’t surprise you about Freeny is that he comes with wild versatility. Here’s what Patriots head coach Bill Belichick had to say about Freeny back in 2016:
“Jonathan’s a very dependable player,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said in a Saturday media conference. “He’s able to do a lot of different roles for us. He can play inside and outside, on the line of scrimmage and off the ball, defensively. He’s been a very valuable player for us in the kicking game, obviously with some size. So a four-phase, special teams player... Everyone in the organization looks up to him.”
In Detroit, Freeny will be a valuable piece to the defense in that he’ll be the only linebacker with direct experience under Matt Patricia. He can serve as a veteran leader among the position, especially with Tahir Whitehead now moving on to play with the Raiders.
On the field, Freeny is much more likely to be just a depth and special teams piece. Last year, he earned just a 44.1 PFF grade and considering he played for three different teams last year (Saints, Ravens, Patriots), I think it’s safe to say he won’t be expected to be a full-time starter in Detroit.