Did Devonta Freeman make the right call?


The news of a new contract for Falcons running back Devonta Freeman has sparked plenty of discussion and debate regarding whether he should have taken the bird in the hand or continued to forage for two in the bush.

Before addressing the should-he-or-shouldn’t-he-have-taken-it question, here are the actual details.

1. $15 million signing bonus.

2. $1.297 million base salary for 2017.

3. $2 million base salary for 2018.

4. $3.75 million base salary for 2019.

5. $6.5 million base salary for 2020.

6. $6.25 million base salary foe 2021.

7. $8.25 million signing bonus for 2022.

Of those amounts, $17 million is fully guaranteed. The first three years of the deal are guaranteed for injury, at a total of $22 million.

As a practical matter, the Falcons are tied to Freeman for the first two or three years. After that, the Falcons will have to decide in 2020 whether to pay $6.5 million in 2020, $6.25 million in 2021, and $8.25 million in 2022.

To get this six-year, $43 million deal, Freeman traded in $1.8 million for 2017 plus the ability to hit the open market or to get the franchise tag next year, at more than $12.5 million. It’s likely that the Falcons strongly suggested that they wouldn’t be using the franchise tag on Freeman next year, which means he’d be relegated to hitting the market.

So with the Falcons offering a five-year extension that carries top-of-market value of $8.25 million per year (if we consider only the new money), it made sense for Freeman to take the offer now, especially in light of the injury risk that comes from playing tailback.

On the other side of the coin, some are suggesting that Freeman should have purchased a $10 million disability policy (which, given that it’s paid out tax free, would be worth more than the $15 million signing bonus) and let it ride. If the Falcons definitely would have used the franchise tag, Freeman probably would have been wise to reject the offer. But if Freeman would have been required to hit the open market, it’s hard to argue that he would have done significantly better in March than he did by doing the deal now.

The real question is what Freeman would have gotten if he had become an unrestricted free agent. Although Bills running back LeSean McCoy currently is averaging $8 million per year, his initial deal with the Eagles averaged $9 million per year — at a time when the cap was only $120.6 million.

So the cap is now 38.4 percent higher, and the market for running backs is lower. Would Freeman have gotten $10 million per year in March 2018? $11 million?

It’s hard to know with eight months and, more importantly, up to 20 regular-season and postseason games to play. Ultimately, however, it’s hard to criticize Freeman for choosing to take the money — even if he only get two or three years of it before the Falcons squeeze him to take less or rip up the contract.

16 responses to “Did Devonta Freeman make the right call?

  1. Did Freeman make the right one? Absolutely! He just took Dimitrioff to the cleaners, but he also destroyed the Falcons cap position for years to come.

    So, it depends. Financially? Absolutely. As a team player who wants to be on a winner? Nope.

  2. If you’ve ever been to where he’s from, you’d realize why this is a stupid question, especially considering that he’s an RB. Teams don’t exactly pay those guys on a regular basis. He did way better than I thought he would with how the league devalues RBs.

  3. On the other side of the coin, some are suggesting that Freeman should have purchased a $10 million disability policy.

    I would think his definition of “disability” is not in alignment with what the ins company considers a disability.

  4. I’m sure an insurance policy doesn’t pay as easy as everyone thinks it does.

    And in case anyone is wondering, 22 million is a hell of a lot of money.

    The decision was correct. Play on.

    P.S. – Since the team gets to figure out what they want to do in those last three years, I suggest Devonta hold out once he gets to those years if he is in fact outperforming the contract. Goose meet Gander.

  5. Advice to all star running backs is cash in immediately. RB is the sole NFL position that has the shortest shelf life. It’s the nature of the position. Each carry brings with it physical damage to your body unless you go untouched for a score. The tires and engines wear out quickly for running backs because of constant abuse. Your window for playing at an elite level is limited because of the physicality of the position. That’s why 32 year old runners barely exist and if they do, they can’t perform at the level that their 25 year old bodies could.

  6. Yeah, smart move; he’s signing while his value is highest. While he could conceivably have another huge year, last year’s Falcons team was so good on offense a bit of a regression can be expected, plus, with Shanahan gone to SF, there’s the lack of continuity with play calling. There’s no guarantee he winds up with anywhere near the level of success he had this last year, and he’s getting what he can while he can. If you’re playing RB, that’s pretty much what you have to do with how devalued the position is comparably to other positions, plus how short a career tends to be.

  7. The right call would have been to pick up Hightower, instead of dreaming about being the Super Bowl MVP…

  8. It’s a team friendly deal that will keep in a Falcons uniform for a long time. This is the type of thing Tom Brady has repeatedly done. Like Brady, he’s doing no favors for others at his position around the league, but that’s not a great argument. Brady’s deals have never impacted non-elite quarterbacks from making over $20 million per year. This deal won’t stop Bell from cashing in either. It might impact Tevin Coleman though, but he is stuck for two more years on his rookie deal.

  9. This is one of those good for both sides kind of deal
    Freeman seems like a level headed guy and hopefully he does it right with his money
    so he is set for life and it gives him the security he wanted as we all know that any running back, or any other player for that matter, is always one play away from being done
    I like the way he did it as opposed to the guy from Pittsburgh
    Good for him

  10. You’re swimming in shark infested waters: Would you like to hit Lotto, guaranteed 15 and up to 23 mill? Or keep swimming, take your 1 plus mill and see what happens afterwards to possibly hit a larger Lotto?

    Insurance companies aren’t in the business to pay out. They’re in it to make money. His premium’s would be insane and then THEIR company paid Doctors exams and dragging on and on. Good luck with that.

    He’d be a fool not to sign that contract before the ink dried.

  11. tylawspick6 says:
    August 10, 2017 at 10:32 am
    Did Freeman make the right one? Absolutely! He just took Dimitrioff to the cleaners, but he also destroyed the Falcons cap position for years to come.

    So, it depends. Financially? Absolutely. As a team player who wants to be on a winner? Nope.

    You really need to step back from all your ‘cap hell’ pronouncements and actually learn a little something about the cap and relative positional values. Freeman’s cap hits through the guaranteed portion of that deal are actually a bargain. Given the high risk inherent to the position and the low value of his 2017 contract this was actually a decent contract for both sides.

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