Arthur Blank addresses Devonta Freeman future with Falcons: 'Salary cap is not unlimited'
Freeman could become a cap casualty in Atlanta
The Atlanta Falcons find themselves with their backs against the salary cap wall as they're about to embark into the offseason and try to put together a roster that's more competitive in 2020. According to Spotrac's projections, the Falcons are currently slated to have just $6.1 million in available cap space, ranking fourth least in the NFL.
One way for the franchise to give themselves a bit more breathing room to add some talent across the roster is by trimming some of the fat that's currently on it. A name that's been brought up who could become a cap casualty is running back Devonta Freeman. It was with Freeman, who still has three years remaining on his current contract. If Atlanta were to cut ties with him this offseason, it would clear $3.5 million off its cap in 2020.
Freeman has noted that he wants to stay a member of the Falcons partly due to his love for owner Arthur Blank. That said, Blank must look at his club's situation with a little less emotion and more from a business standpoint, which it appears he is.
"Well, I love him, too," Blank said of Freeman, via Vaughn McClure of ESPN. "But this has nothing to do with love. It has to do with building a roster. The salary cap is not unlimited. It seems like it's unlimited, but it's not. And the investments we have made -- which have been very, very substantial with a wide variety of players on both sides of the ball -- have been significant. So personnel, and coach, and [team president] Rich McKay, they'll be looking at everything and making sure we're making investments in the right areas based on what the roster has to look like going forward.
"How it's going to affect one individual player, I have no idea. Sure, I love what [Freeman] brings to the team. I also know we've drafted well and we've got some really good backups now today. We'll see how all that works out."
Freeman's future in Atlanta being in doubt isn't exactly new. Prior to the NFL Trade Deadline this past fall, the Detroit Lions for the two-time Pro Bowl running back. The Falcons could open up talks once again, if they so choose, or simply cut Freeman loose to clear the capital.
The 27-year-old has been with the Falcons ever since they drafted him in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL Draft out of Florida State. He took ahold of the starting job in 2015 and has managed that role ever since. After posting back-to-back thousand yard rushing seasons with 27 total touchdowns in 2015 and 2016, Freeman's production has fallen off and has yet to get back over the thousand yard mile marker on the ground. In 14 games last season, he rushed for 656 yards on a career-low 3.6 yards a carry and two rushing scores. He did catch 59 passes for 410 yards and four touchdowns to make his 2019 campaign a bit more respectable.
Despite that production as a pass catcher, the Falcons may need to make the hard call of either keeping Freeman around or cutting bait, clearing the cap space and handing the reins over to Ito Smith and others in the backfield.
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