There was very little fanfare surrounding the drafting of Devonta Freeman out of Florida State back in 2014. The undersized running back turned out to be a steal for General Manager Thomas Dimitroff in the fourth round. After playing behind Steven Jackson and Antoine Smith his rookie year, Freeman exploded under first year head coach Dan Quinn and Offensive Coordinator Kyle Shanahan. He put up 1056 rushing yards to go with his 578 receiving yards in his breakout sophomore season. Freeman played a huge role in the Falcons Superbowl run in his third year. Freeman formed a duo with Tevin Coleman that made the Falcons offense one of the most dynamic in the NFL.
But following the Super Bowl loss, many questions remain about Freeman’s long term place in the Falcons team. On the eve of Super Bowl 51, Freeman’s agent brought up concern over why he made so much less money that his pro bowl counterparts. This was elevated when Freeman’s agents husband tweeted suggesting that Freeman would be traded due to the extension given to Desmond Trufant. These problems stem from the fact that Freeman is still on his rookie deal. Due to this rookie deal, he makes significantly less money compared to other elite level running backs. While Dimitroff insists the Falcons intentions to resign Freeman, he seems to value extending other players such as Matt Ryan ahead of Freeman. Freeman has insisted that he will not let his contract situation affect his level of play, but the Falcons may wonder what type of distraction this may become.
The Falcons seem to have taken the first step in creating a back up plan in the event that contract negotiations fall through. The Falcons selected Brian Hill out of Wyoming in the fifth round. Hill’s style is very similar to Freeman’s while being a bit taller. While there is no guarantee that Hill will ever be successful in the NFL, the Falcons are at least planning for the future. The Falcons will be unable to pay both running backs what they may deserve, so some tough decisions will have to be made.
All Statistics Via Pro-Football-Reference.com