The two-time Pro-Bowler for the Atlanta Falcons is getting his first taste of free agency.
The #Falcons are releasing RB Devonta Freeman, source says, saving more than $3M against the salary cap and moving on from their former starter.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 16, 2020
Devonta Freeman, 28, was released by the Atlanta Falcons about two hours before the free agency tampering period began for the NFL. The Florida St. alum has spent six seasons in hot Georgia weather, racking up 3,972 yards and 32 scores on 951 carries.
He also added another 2,015 yards and 11 touchdowns on 257 receptions.
It’s unclear as to whether or not Freeman’s best days are behind him, but one can infer that he wasn’t the same back behind that Altana offensive line that did nothing to help the situation. In 2019, Freeman averaged a career-low 3.6 yards-per-carry, had just two touchdowns, and an abysmal 656 yards in 14 games.
Players who play in one environment for a long time may tend to get attached to that city, especially if that team was the one who drafted you. However, this could be a blessing in disguise for the 28-year-old running back.
Even though teams league-wide are transitioning more pass-heavy offensively, the services of someone like Devonta Freeman should still be in high demand.
But who would be interested in signing the veteran tailback?
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The new frontrunner to land Tom Brady is going to have some work cut out for them. In 2019, the Buccaneers ranked 24th in the NFL in yards per game (95.1) and tied for 27th in yards per attempt (3.7).
While Freeman only averaged 46.9 yards-per-game and 3.6 per-carry, he at least provides a proven running back to feature with Ronald Jones. On top of that, Freeman’s versatility as a pass-catching running back would give Tom Brady the exact kind of running back he thrives with.
He’s not quite the same connection that Brady would have with James White in New England, but he’s a good consolation prize.
Lost in the revolving door at quarterback was the lackluster play at running back.
Pittsburgh, a team that was on the cusp of a playoff spot, ranked 29th in yards-per-game (90.4) and were tied for 27th in yards-per-carry (3.7). It’ll be season No. 3 since Le’Veon Bell held out and eventually departed, and it looks like James Conner can’t do it himself.
Adding another versatile running back is essential, as Jaylen Samuels and Benny Snell simply couldn’t cut it in 2019.
It could very well be Ben Roethlisberger’s last season in the NFL. To give him the proper send-off, they must surround him with as much offensive talent as possible –– because without Antonio Brown or Le’Veon Bell, it’s going to be hard for Roethlisberger to move the ball.
Fresh off their presumptive signing of Teddy Bridgewater, the Bears are in win-now mode. While it’s unclear if they still intend on having Mitch Trubisky start, they at least want a viable option to replace him.
But the Bears’ struggles offensively shouldn’t entirely fall on the shoulders of the former No. 2 overall pick, as they ranked 27th in yards-per-game (91.1) and tied for 27th in yards-per-carry.
David Montgomery, while rushing for 889 yards, averaged just 3.7 yards-per-carry. Tarik Cohen provided little resistance himself. Cordarrelle Patterson averaged 6.1 yards-per-carry, but he only had 17 rushing attempts.
Point is, they need some stability, which is something that Freeman could provide.
New England Patriots
Yes, the Patriots have Sony Michel. Yes, the Patriots have James White. Yes, the team drafted Damien Harris last season.
However, the Patriots saw a yards-per-game decrease of 20.9 and a yards-per-carry decrease from 4.3 to 3.8. That could be attributed to the losses of Dwayne Allen, Rob Gronkowski, Trent Brown, David Andrews, and James Develin –– but there was a noticeable difference in the way Sony Michel was running.
It was almost as if he was hesitant to run with any sort of explosion, and it showed in his numbers. His yards-per-carry dropped from 4.5 to 3.7, his yards-per-game dropped from 71.6 to 57, and he rushed for 19 fewer yards despite playing three more games (six more starts).
This isn’t to say the team needs to move on from Michel, but rather they need to provide a viable “other” option. The Patriots, whether they re-sign Brady or not, need to improve offensively if they want to return to NFL glory.