Blank recently spoke with ESPN’s Vaughn McClure about the Devonta Freeman rumor.
“Well, I love him, too,” Blank said. “But this has nothing to do with love. It has to do with building a roster. The salary cap is not unlimited. It seems like it’s unlimited, but it’s not. And the investments we have made – which have been very, very substantial with a wide variety of players on both sides of the ball – have been significant. So personnel, and coach, and [team president] Rich McKay, they’ll be looking at everything and making sure we’re making investments in the right areas based on what the roster has to look like going forward.”
“How it’s going to affect one individual player, I have no idea. Sure, I love what [Freeman] brings to the team. I also know we’ve drafted well and we’ve got some really good backups now today. We’ll see how all that works out.”
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Reason 1: Salary Cap
Releasing Freeman would free up nearly $3.5 million and a $6 million dead cap for the team to work with this offseason. Blank told ESPN he has “no idea” if Falcons’ GM Thomas Dimitroff will drop him, but emphasizes that his affection for Freeman won’t factor into the team’s final decision.
Reason 2: 2019 Career-Low
As of 2019, Freeman has rushed for a total of 3,972 yards averaging 4.2 rushing yards per game. He has scored 32 touchdowns so far with 2,015 receiving yards and 257 receptions.
Freeman was drafted by the Falcons in the fourth round (103rd overall) of the 2014 NFL Draft. In 2017 the Falcons signed Freeman to a five-year, $41.25 million contract extension with Atlanta and became the highest-paid running back in the NFL. Freeman missed all but two games during the 2018 season due to a groin injury. As for last season, he finished with a career-low yard per carry, which could be another reason the Falcons are considering taking a new direction.
Reason 3: Austin Hooper
Aside from the salary cap and Freeman’s career-low, another reason the Falcons might consider releasing Freeman is to make room for their game-changing tight end, Austin Hooper who is set to become a free agent in March.
Hooper mentioned back in January during locker cleanout how he hadn’t received an offer from the Falcons yet but wanted to return to the team.
In all four years with the Falcons, Hooper averaged over a 70% catch rate while finishing under 10 yards per reception one time.
Arthur Blank also had told ESPN’s McClure his thoughts on Hooper.
“I think he’s a young, ascending player, and he has performed at a very high level for us,” Blank said. “I think he’s worthy, certainly, of a new contract based on market.”