It's been quite the offseason for Devonta Freeman, and now he has a message for Bruce Arians and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that adds to the thick of the plot. The 28-year-old remains a free agent after having been released by the Atlanta Falcons on March 16 after spending six seasons with the team as their former fourth-round pick, and only three years after they made him the highest-paid running back in NFL history with a five-year, $41.25 million extension. The calendar has now turned to June and Freeman remains a free agent, presumably because no team has met his asking price just yet.
With the bulk of NFL free agency and the 2020 draft now both in the rearview, there are still teams who could stand to benefit from having Freeman on their roster. One such club is the Buccaneers, who aren't afraid to admit they have interest. What they are afraid of, however, is having to pay him money they don't believe they have laying around.
Head coach Bruce Arians noted he'd enjoy having Freeman in Tampa, but not without a reduction in price.
"If his price tag was reasonable," Arians said, via Jon Ledyard of Pewter Report. "He's asking for a lot of money, and we don't have a lot of money."
Freeman wasted little time sending a digital carrier pigeon to Arians following the comments.
"I read in the media that [the] Tampa Bay Buccaneers are interested," he said. "A number of teams are interested, but we can't negotiate through the media. The Buccaneers can reach out to me directly."
It's unclear if Freeman is alleging Arians made the statement regarding his price before reaching out to him, that they should try again, or if he's simply looking to work around his own agent to expedite a potential signing -- the latter being less likely than the former. Interpret it how you will, but what's clear is that Freeman didn't enjoy seeing Arians add fuel to the narrative that his asking price is somewhat far-fetched. It is not known what number the former Falcons running back is aiming at, but whatever it is, it's been uncomfortable for some teams.
Otherwise, he'd be signed by now.
Several halfback-needy teams were in the mix to sign him initially, including the Seattle Seahawks, but they eventually waved off his contract ask and signed Carlos Hyde. This led to a report that Freeman and even possibly retire if no team stepped up and met his contract demand. The two-time Pro Bowler took to Twitter to voice his displeasure about that report as well, and to accost any who believed it -- holding nothing back in a tweet that has since been deleted.
"I got 10 more years in me," Freeman said in the now-deleted tweet. "Kill that fake retirement sh-t!! & Btw, F all y'all!!"
There's still plenty of time for Freeman to sign on with a club before the start of the 2020 season, given there have been no OTAs and likely will be no minicamp, either. As teams potentially fire up training camps in July, they'll do so knowing injury is a possibility at some point ahead of September, and with injury comes need that makes general managers more amicable to the asks of proven veterans. Freeman is most certainly that, having two 1,000-yard seasons under his belt and having been one of the premier halfbacks in the NFL not long ago, with an ability to both run and catch out of the backfield.
The Bucs could upgrade their backfield by signing him -- something Tom Brady would no doubt enjoy -- and now that it's clear the interest swings in both directions, all they have to do is come to some sort of agreement. That, however, might be easier said than done.