Earlier today, I wrote about the importance of the Falcons staying focused during this week leading up to the Super Bowl. I said I didn’t think that would be a major problem, and I still believe that, even though we’re going to get our fair share of stories that have little to do with the game at hand.
"It's time for the Falcons to pay him like the elite back he is," Freeman's agent, Kristin Campbell, told NFL.com. "I expect them to make him a priority this offseason, as he's been an integral part of the dynamic offense that has gotten them to the Super Bowl."
"Oh, I'm certainly struggling with it, just because I'm a competitor," Freeman said. "I just want to be around the ball as much as I can, to help the team win. Now we're in the Super Bowl, and this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I don't know how many carries or touches I'm gonna get going into this game, but I'm gonna try to make the most of every opportunity I get."
I don’t think many would quibble with the idea that Freeman deserves a big payday, with three seasons under his belt and 2,383 yards and 23 touchdowns along the way. He possesses a tremendous combination of vision, physicality, and agility, and certainly the Falcons have benefitted enormously from having him on the team. That said, this team has a number of big contracts coming up from Desmond Trufant to Jake Matthews, and they have a productive back in Tevin Coleman and already seem to be checking in on backs in this upcoming draft class. I’d hope the team could keep Freeman—again, he has 100% earned it—but I’d be lying if I said my expectations were that he’d stay.
Keep in mind: This is what agents do, and this is what many players do. Running backs have a short earning window and while Freeman’s contract isn’t up until after next season, he’s going to push hard for security and big money while he can. For many RBs, their first big contract is also their last big contract, and Freeman and his agent certainly know that. They also know that the Falcons love Coleman, and the Super Bowl is one of the highest-profile places to make their case to Atlanta and other NFL teams. Frankly, I don’t blame them for it, even if I wished it didn’t happen right now.
Ultimately, this is still a bigger deal to us fans than it is to the team, which is very familiar with the contract dance and the way agents choose to stump for their players, and isn’t going to hold it against Freeman. For his part, Freeman isn’t going to forget how to run or sulk his way through the biggest game of his life, not when his effort hasn’t slackened all season despite sharing carries with Tevin Coleman.
This will be something we’ll have to grapple with this offseason and certainly the next, depending on whether the Falcons do choose to pony up, but it’s not going to cause this team any harm in the here and now. Just file it away for later, because we’re going to have to talk about it again, hopefully after the Falcons hoist a Lombardi trophy.