The common belief is that the Falcons will let Tevin Coleman walk in free agency. However, after the 2018 season, the Atlanta Falcons should trade Devonta Freeman and resign Tevin Coleman.
At the end of the season, the Falcons will have a decision to make at the running back position. They’ve done a great job at scouting and drafting in the Dan Quinn era and sometimes, that leads to “problems.” Every team would love to have two capable starting running backs. The flip side of it is, both of those running backs will want to be compensated fairly.
It is easy to convince someone to sacrifice playing time for the sake of the team. It is not easy, however, to convince someone to take less money for the sake of the team. Especially when they’ve only had a rookie contract.
The second contract is what every athlete has worked for and Tevin Coleman has earned his.
Lets first cover what Devonta Freeman has done since becoming a starter.
- 2015: 1,056 yards, averaging 4.0 yards per carry, 13 games (Finished 7th in the NFL)
- 2016: 1,079 yards, averaging 4.8 yards per carry , 16 games (Finished 14th in the NFL)
- 2017: 865 yards, 4.4 yards per carry, 14 games (Finished 14th in the NFL)
Freeman’s best finish is 7th in the NFL. Two of the three seasons he finished 14th. Yet, he’s the third highest paid running back in the NFL. That is by no means to marginalize what Freeman has done. I’ll take Freeman over Steven Jackson hop stepping behind the offensive line for two-yard gains all season. But, if Freeman has another season like the three he’s had, the numbers simply say the Falcons are overpaying.
When Freeman took over the starting spot, he jumpstarted the offense in a way that no Falcons running back had done since Michael Turner, when he first got to Atlanta. For that, I am grateful. Teams all over tried to replicate what the Falcons did with Devonta Freeman. Draft a shifty running back in the mid-rounds, maximize his production while on a cheap contract, while also completely transforming your offense.
See: Alvin Kamara
Freeman is the third highest paid running back in the league while never finishing top-five in rushing yards, and he is missing a crucial asset all running backs need. Pass blocking. Freeman held the franchise hostage over his contract, the week of the Super Bowl (great timing!), only to miss the most important block in franchise history days later (even better timing!). Fast forward an entire football season to the game last week and it’s clear he still can’t pass block in the crucial moments. At least not better than Coleman.
Freeman’s additional workload and naturally violent running style will inevitably lead to a shorter shelf life for Freeman. He suffered a concussion last season, along with knee injuries and appeared to have another minor setback with his knee in week 1 against the Eagles.
Freeman would have more trade value between the two of them but Freeman has also been getting more of the playing time, as the starter. That means whatever contract the Falcons and Coleman’s camp came to an agreement on, would easily be cheaper than Freeman’s top-three contract.
Coleman would be just as good as Freeman, with a longer shelf life and significantly cheaper.
There is no realistic way to keep both Freeman and Coleman while paying both what they feel they deserve. Its not all about money, either. Make no mistake about it, everyone knows Tevin Coleman could start for at least half the teams in the NFL. Tevin Coleman knows that too. It is doubtful he wants to spend most of his career as a backup. He wants his money and his touches. Rightfully so.
Buy low, sell high. Get Ito Smith up to speed and maybe even draft another running back in the mid rounds for depth at the position. Clearly, the Falcons can draft running backs or they wouldn’t be in this position. They should have the confidence that they can draft another productive running back, in Ito Smith and someone else. Now is the time to sell.
There would be at least 10-15 teams willing to pay handsomely for Freeman. The Falcons have maximized Freeman’s production more than they probably thought they would when they drafted him.
Freeman is more expensive, has a shorter shelf life and lacks pass block ability. All are things that should tip the scale in Coleman’s favor. If the Falcons could keep both I’d say keep both, but the numbers just say that is unlikely. The NFL is a business and this is a business decision.
Mr. Dimitroff, Tevin Coleman is your guy.