One of the many things that came out of yesterday’s end of season presser was the tidbit that Thomas Dimitroff believes the Falcons can keep Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman together. Whether they will do so, of course, is an entirely different question.
The two backs shared the backfield again in 2017, with results that didn’t quite match 2016. Coleman put up 628 yards and five touchdowns on the ground and 299 yards and three touchdowns through the air, while Freeman rolled up 865 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground and 317 yards and one touchdown through the air. Both dealt with injuries, with Coleman missing one game and Freeman missing two and looking a bit limited down the stretch. That’s nothing an offseason of rest shouldn’t fix, at least.
Despite Dimitroff’s optimism, I’m going to take a wait-and-see approach here. Teams simply don’t pay two backs simultaneously in 2017, and they made Freeman (temporarily) the highest-paid back in football just this past offseason. Free’s cap hits get more manageable after 2018, sure, but Coleman walking remains the likeliest scenario for Atlanta, as unfortunate as that would be. His speed makes him a potent piece of the offense, and he was arguably the best part of the Falcons’ attack against the Eagles.
Because the two offer such a dynamic one-two punch, though, I’m hopeful the team can figure out a way to make it happen. We’re getting toward the twilight of Matt Ryan’s illustrious career, more than likely, and a strong ground game is an essential piece of this offense regardless. I’m hopeful there’s some cap wizardry in this front office that will allow it to happen, but you should assume it won’t.
That’s just due to upcoming cap realities. The Falcons aren’t exactly sitting on a treasure trove of cap space this offseason, and the likes of Dontari Poe, Adrian Clayborn, and Ricardo Allen (who is at least an RFA) are all free agents. Meanwhile, the following offseason will feature a list of free agents that includes Matt Ryan, Andy Levitre, and Jake Matthews. Money seems likely to be tight by 2019, and even with Levitre likely to leave, there may not be money for Coleman.
Let’s hope I’m wrong, though!