The Falcons might cut Devonta Freeman this offseason. That was evident the moment his 2019 season wasn’t a smashing success, and the team dangled him at the trade deadline and apparently got at least one serious offer last year. When your production isn’t terrific, when you lose games to injury for the third straight season, and when you cost the team quite a bit of cap space, your roster spot is probably in trouble, even if Freeman was hardly the ground game’s biggest issue last year.
The two questions that were natural to ask were whether a move might happen, and when it would happen if the answer to the first question was yes. There’s nothing definitive just yet, but my feeling for a while now has been that they will part ways with Freeman, and that it will be soon.
Ian Rapoport added some fuel to the fire today.
From NFL Now: The #Falcons may move on from RB Devonta Freeman, who they nearly dealt at the trade deadline and whose move would save them some cap space. pic.twitter.com/XW3ozJbskh— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) February 12, 2020
Rapoport says the team is weighing the decision “currently,” which would seem to be a prelude to a move. The Falcons would save over $3 million by moving on, though they’d still be carrying $6 million in dead money this year with the cut. Moving on from Free would also put the team in a situation where they’ll need to look for a new feature back, potentially in the draft, but I don’t think that’ll dissuade them from doing so.
That’s especially true after 2019. The Falcons are kidding themselves if they think a little personnel shuffling alone is going to get a quality ground game going, given how infrequently Dirk Koetter has had those and how of the issue came down to offensive line personnel and scheme rather than the running back group. That said, while Freeman was a vital safety blanket in the passing game, he had his worst season as a pro running the ball and missed games for the third consecutive season, which will likely convince the team they can find better, more durable production for less money elsewhere.
That’s probably also true. Atlanta’s decision to give Freeman a big contract came after two straight mega-productive seasons for Free, and came at a time when he was still only 25 years old. Unfortunately for the team and Freeman—and hell, unfortunately for teams and running backs everywhere—those kinds of investments almost invariably do not work out the way we want them to. I had hoped Freeman’s youth and relatively light carry numbers would help him avoid that fate, but injuries robbed him of what otherwise likely would’ve been productive seasons, and the Falcons can now go get somebody who will give them four strong, affordable years in the draft. The writing is on the wall.
It’d be a shame if this happens, even so. The Falcons had an opportunity to get draft capital at the deadline last year in exchange for Freeman and turned it down, and releasing him now after they basically retained him to help save the jobs of the coaching staff and front office kind of stinks. We should know soon enough whether the team will actually go through with it.