With Le'Veon Bell and Mark Ingram having already signed elsewhere, Coleman was arguably the best free-agent running back left on the market. While it's not explicitly clear how coach Kyle Shanahan intends to deploy Coleman, Shanahan previously used the Indiana product as a direct complement to Devonta Freeman when both Coleman and Shanahan were together in Atlanta in 2015 and 2016. Considering the 49ers forked over a four-year, $30 million contract to Jerick McKinnon (knee) last offseason, Coleman could be at risk of falling as low as third on the depth chart in 2019 if McKinnon remains on the roster ahead of Week 1.
With fellow running back Devonta Freeman (groin) already signed to a five-year, $41.25 million contract, Coleman presumably would need to accept a hometown discount to have any shot at staying in Atlanta. He'll also have a better chance at a starting job if he's playing elsewhere, though it may not be a sure thing after a 2018 campaign in which he cemented his reputation as an explosive yet inconsistent runner. Coleman played all 16 games while setting career-high marks for carries (167), rushing yards (800) and yards per carry (4.8), but his reliance on long gains led to some nightmare weeks along the way. He'll turn 26 in April and nonetheless profiles as one of the better running backs available in free agency, with no shortage of potential fits.
Coleman ran for 45 yards and one touchdown on eight attempts, adding one reception for nine yards during Sunday's 34-32 win against Tampa Bay.
In the expiring year of his rookie contract, Coleman progressed as the season wore on. The fourth-year back endured a sluggish start to the year, recording one rushing touchdown and only once exceeding 3.6 yards per carry through his first six appearances. Coleman has surpassed 3.6 yards per rush in eight of 10 contests since, while accounting for six of his nine total touchdowns during that span. If the Falcons choose not to retain Coleman after he produced his first season of 1,000 offensive yards, he'll almost certainly be pursued as a No. 1 running back option elsewhere.
Coleman (groin) doesn't have an injury designation for Sunday's game in Tampa Bay, Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com reports.
Coleman returned to practice Friday as a limited participant, apparently showing enough to gain clearance for the season finale. He handled a 65 percent snap share in last week's 24-10 win over Carolina, taking 10 carries for 51 yards while Brian Hill piled up 115 yards on just eight totes. The two running backs figure to share work in what likely will be Coleman's final game with the Falcons.
Held out the previous two days, Coleman must've looked good Friday in his return to the practice field. It remains to be seen how he's listed on the final injury report for what likely will be his last game with the Falcons. Brian Hill is next in line for carries if Quinn has a change of heart or the team decides to limit Coleman's role.
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