If there is one thing that is consistent with the Patriots, it's a focus on all three phases of the game. Linebackers that can be strong backups and make plays on special teams have a real chance to make the roster, and free agent pickup Jonathan Freeny fits that mold. Freeny was originally signed as a defensive end coming out of Rutgers in 2011, but in the NFL he's played linebacker. With Freeny joining the Patriots, that makes four Rutgers players on the New England roster.
Freeny, 26, is listed at 6'2, 250 pounds and he hails from Margate, Florida. Freeny attended Coconut Creek High School before he committed to the Rutgers Scarlet Hawks in 2011. As a freshman, Freeny wasn't redshirted, but he didn't get a lot of playing time. He appeared in eight games, assisting on three tackles and making an interception. Freeny played in all 13 games as a sophomore, making six solo tackles, 13 assisted tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, one sack, one forced fumble, and one pass defended. Freeny showed improvement, but his junior year was off the charts. He finished 2009 with 19 solo tackles, 13 assisted tackles, 12 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks, one forced fumble, and two passes defensed.
Freeny, who's stock was at his highest after his junior year, decided to return for his senior season. Unfortunately, he struggled in 2010 in the pass rush department and that cost him big time. Freeny did a good job overall, finishing with 38 total tackles and seven tackles for loss, but dropping from 9.5 to 0.5 is alarming. Freeny went from a possible second or third round pick to undrafted, which ended up costing him a significant amount of money. For his overall future though, obtaining his degree from a good school like Rutgers will help his post-football life.
Freeny was signed by the Miami Dolphins and spent the season on the practice squad. The Dolphins liked what they saw out of him, and in 2012 he was given an opportunity on special teams. He took advantage of his chance, playing in all 16 games and recording seven overall tackles. 2013 was more of the same as Freeny played in every game, but his tackles doubled to 15 and he became more of a presence. In 2014, Freeny not only played special teams, he also saw spot-duty at linebacker, finishing the season with 15 tackles and one sack.
Miami decided not to tender Freeny, who was a restricted free agent, so New England jumped at the chance to sign a potential core-special teamer. Freeny signed a one year/$1 million dollar deal (850 k salary, 150k bonus), so his deal is flexible enough for New England to be able to cut him if he isn't good enough to make the 53-man roster.
College Statistics Provided by Sport-Reference.com/CollegeFootball
NFL Statistics Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com/JonathanFreeny