Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman and his agent caused a small controversy during the week leading up to the Super Bowl. I wrote about it that week, and looking back, it wasn’t a big deal. Was I annoyed, especially at his agent? Yes. Does Devonta have every right to lobby for a raise? Absolutely.
ESPN’s Bill Barnwell broke down five moves the Falcons should make in an article he wrote last week. It’s an interesting read, if you have time. Here’s part of what he said about Freeman:
[N]obody is saying Freeman is a bad back. His style fits what Kyle Shanahan wanted to do on offense, and he should be effective next season under Steve Sarkisian. It's also true that Freeman was a fourth-round pick coming out of college and was a player the Falcons seemingly planned to replace with Tevin Coleman after the 2015 draft. He spent last year behind one of the best offensive lines in football and was buoyed by a dominant passing attack. Fifty-one of his carries came with the Falcons up 14 points or more, a figure topped only by LeGarrette Blount and Le'Veon Bell.
In short, Barnwell doesn’t think the Falcons should give Freeman a big payday this offseason. In the last year of his rookie contract, Freeman will make about $800k. That’s not a lot of money, relatively speaking. (Let me be clear, when I say “relatively speaking,” I’m talking about him vs. running backs with similar production. I’m not talking about him vs. normal working folk.)
According to Spotrac, Freeman’s current market value could be as high as $10 million/year. You probably had some sticker shock when you read that. So did I. But then I perused the current NFL running back salary rankings. Unless Freeman falls off a cliff statistically in 2017, someone is going to pay the man.
Freeman only played three years of college football. Over three years as a professional, Freeman hasn’t cracked the 300 carry mark yet. Heck, as a rookie, he only logged 65 rushing attempts over 251 offensive snaps. Let’s not kid ourselves, there’s still plenty of tread on those tires.
The question is whether the Falcons can replicate his value in the draft in 2018. If they can or think they can, it makes sense to let him walk in free agency. Let him play 2017 at this huge discount and hope for the best. Tevin Coleman could continue his progression. All could go according to plan. But then again ... you know where I’m going with this.