Devonta Freeman is not the same player he was when he signed his five-year contract extension two and a half years ago. At the time, he was coming off two consecutive seasons with 1,500 or more scrimmage yards and double-digit touchdowns. There were concerns about his size, but he quickly became one of the most explosive backs in the NFL in Kyle Shanahan’s system. However, he has only been able to suit up for 30 games over the last three seasons and is coming off his worst year as a pro, rushing for just 3.6 yards per carry. With the Falcons facing a tight cap situation, his future with the team has to be in question.
Backing up the Brinks truck for a running back is a mistake. David Johnson will likely be cut by the Arizona Cardinals this offseason. The Los Angeles Rams are desperately looking to trade Todd Gurley. And the Falcons are left with very few options when looking at the future of Devonta Freeman.
Earlier this offseason, Chase Irle talked about how a new CBA could dictate whether or not Freeman is cut. The Falcons would be able to save $3.0 million more in cap if this were the case, and the team opted to designate him a Post-June-1st cut. But in the final year of the CBA, no Post-June 1st cuts are allowed.
Regardless of how that situation plays out, Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated thinks it is likely the Falcons cut Freeman either way, and by doing so, save $3.5 million and eat $6 million in dead cap.
Freeman’s issues since signing his deal in 2017 (he hasn’t posted a 1,000-yard season since and averaged 3.6 yards per carry in 2019) are another cautionary tale on paying backs. Atlanta will have to carry $6 million in dead money. But given their cap situation, every dollar counts.
For what it is worth, Breer reportedly talked to teams in preparation of putting together his chopping block list, so this seems like more than just an educated guess.
The cap savings are not significant but do add up in the grand scheme of things when you consider that it is likely time for the Falcons to bring in fresh legs at running back regardless, and a rookie contract would pay much less than $3.5 million. I took a look at some options in this draft class the Falcons should target. Atlanta also has a boatload of other holes, and $3.5 million will go a long way in covering some of those up. Of course, if a new CBA is worked out, and the Falcons are able to save $6.5 million by designating Freeman a Post-June 1st cut, this is a no brainer.