The Atlanta Falcons expected elite production from Devonta Freeman when they signed him to a five-year contract extension prior to the 2017 season, but they have not gotten it. Now, there’s a good chance the team could move on from the veteran running back.
The Falcons are weighing the possibility of releasing Freeman this offseason, Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports. Freeman is owed $6.5 million in base salary next year as part of a contract that at one point made him the highest-paid running back in football, and Atlanta could save roughly $3 million in salary cap space by releasing him.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) February 12, 2020
Freeman missed nearly the entire 2018 season because of an injury, and he averaged just 3.6 yards per carry in 2019. He’ll turn 28 this offseason.
The Falcons don’t have any eye-popping running back options on their depth chart behind Freeman at the moment with Brian Hill and Kenjon Barner, but they may feel they can upgrade the position in the draft.
Week 7 of the NFL season brought us more lopsided scores than close games, and some huge games with playoff implications — such as the Cowboys’ victory over the Eagles, the Colts’ win over the Texans, and the Ravens’ win in Seattle. Many teams or individuals failed to get the job done during the week and were big disappointments.
Here’s a look at the 10 biggest disappointments of Week 7.
Melvin Gordon, RB, Chargers
The way this game went, Chargers fans are probably feeling the team may have been better off had Gordon never returned from his holdout. Gordon had just 32 yards on 16 carries. He fumbled twice, including one at the goal line to lose the game. He’s averaging just 2.25 yards per carry since his return. Worse, he’s taking valuable carries away from Austin Ekeler.
The Bears got Mitchell Trubisky back in their 36-25 loss to the Saints, but it didn’t serve as a big improvement over Chase Daniels. The game started with a safety on Chicago’s first possession, then a punt, and then a lost fumble in Bears territory. It was a 12-10 game in the second and then Chicago went totally silent. They had punts on five of their next six possessions and lost a fumble on the other. 17 total rushing yards and two lost fumbles is not a formula for success. It’s no surprise Trubisky got booed as a “welcome back” from the fans.
Frustration continues to mound for the Atlanta Falcons, and it boiled over for running back Devonta Freeman on Sunday.
Freeman was ejected from Sunday’s game for throwing a punch at Los Angeles Rams lineman Aaron Donald after a play in the third quarter.
Devonta Freeman got ejected because he punched Aaron Donald.
What was Devonta thinking? pic.twitter.com/VIx4aE5n5q
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) October 20, 2019
It’s not clear what, if anything, set Freeman off. The Falcons are 1-5 and trailed the game 27-3, so it’s entirely plausible that Freeman had just had it and let his frustration boil over.
The Falcons were going to lose either way, so it won’t have any major impact on the outcome of the game. The lack of discipline might not reflect well on coach Dan Quinn in his week-to-week evaluation, however.
Devonta Freeman has not been able to stay healthy this year since he left the first game of the season with a knee injury, and it sounds like his 2018 campaign could be coming to an end.
According to Jay Glazer of FOX Sports, the Falcons are placing Freeman on injured reserve.
Big loss from Falcons as they are going to place Devonta Freeman on IR today @NFLonFOX
— Jay Glazer (@JayGlazer) October 16, 2018
The Falcons later confirmed the news, with head coach Dan Quinn saying they are “hopeful” Freeman can return later in the season. He’ll have to miss at least eight games now that he has been placed on IR.
Freeman has battled knee, foot and groin injuries, and a recent report claiming the Falcons were not concerned about his long-term health was apparently premature. Atlanta will now be forced to lean on Tevin Coleman more heavily for the remainder of the season. Losing a star running back was the last thing a 2-4 team needed.
Devonta Freeman has already missed three games this season after he suffered a knee injury in Week 1, and a separate ailment has him in danger of missing Sunday’s matchup with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. However, the new injury is one the Atlanta Falcons are not overly concerned about.
ESPN’s Dan Graziano reports that the Falcons do not fear a long-term absence for Freeman due to his foot injury, which has been described as a contusion.
On Falcons RB Devonta Freeman: I am told the team isn't as worried about his new foot injury as it was about his Week 1 knee injury, which cost him three games. Too soon to know if he can go this week, but team doesn't fear a long-term absence.
— Dan Graziano (@DanGrazianoESPN) October 11, 2018
Freeman was effective with limited work against the Pittsburgh Steelers last week, rushing for 36 yards on six carries and adding another 14 yards on three receptions. But he has been banged up quite a bit already this season, so the Falcons could be downplaying their concern.
Tevin Coleman has struggled in Freeman’s absence and only rushed for 15 yards on seven carries in Week 5, He is typically more effective when used as a complimentary back, but Coleman will once again have to take on a larger role if Freeman can’t play on Sunday.
Devonta Freeman has missed the last three games after suffering a knee injury in the Atlanta Falcons’ season-opening game against the Philadelphia Eagles, but the star running back is finally ready to return.
During an appearance on 92.9 The Game Wednesday, Falcons head coach Dan Quinn said he expects Freeman to play when the team travels to Pittsburgh to face the Steelers on Sunday.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) October 3, 2018
Initial reports indicated that Freeman was expected to miss two or three games, and that timeline appears to have been accurate. Tevin Coleman has struggled a bit to get going over the past two games and is better utilized as a complimentary back, so Atlanta’s offense should look even better than it has in recent weeks with Freeman back in the mix.
Devonta Freeman returned to practice on a limited basis this week, but the star running back will have to sit out at least another week before he is ready to play again.
Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn told reporters on Friday that Freeman will not play against the Cincinnati Bengals this weekend, though Quinn seemed optimistic about the back’s status going forward.
Quinn said Devonta Freeman he made a lot of progress this week but won’t play this weekend. #Falcons
— Kelsey Conway (@FalconsKelsey) September 28, 2018
Freeman has been diagnosed with a knee contusion that he appeared to suffer at the end of Atlanta’s season opener against the Philadelphia Eagles. Initial reports indicated that he would miss two or three games, and Sunday will be the third.
Tevin Coleman will continue to serve as the Falcons’ primary back in Freeman’s absence. Atlanta’s offense has looked just fine without Freeman, scoring a total of 68 points in the past two weeks.