Fantasy Football: Devonta Freeman’s days as a start-worthy running back are done

The Falcons didn’t really cut Devonta Freeman because they were desperate to save $3 million — a good contributing player is worth 1.5% of salary cap space.

Freeman was cut because he wasn’t as productive in 2019 as he was previously. You can choose your own data point for why the move was made — his rushing average sank by nearly 1.5 yards per carry, he had just five runs of 15-plus yards, Pro Football Focus had him as the third-to-worst in elusiveness among running backs who had 50% or more of their teams’ carries. But perhaps the most damning fact is that Freeman was entrusted on just three carries inside the 10-yard line in 2019, and he scored on zero of them. He had just as many of those carries in two games in 2018.

Freeman’s days of being a primary back are probably over. He just turned 28 (his birthday was the day before he was cut) and has dealt with injuries in each of the past three seasons. Plus, the 2020 NFL Draft is coming up and there are plenty of good young running backs available. Freeman may have to wait until after the draft to find a new place to play.

One idea: Freeman finds a home as a passing-downs complement. This was an area he was actually decent in last year, scoring four times through the air on 59 receptions for 410 yards and a better-than-average 84.3% catch rate. Three of those scores came inside the 10-yard-line, too.

Two possible landing spots:

Pittsburgh: Clearly in win-now mode, the Steelers have salary cap issues and could use some cheap veteran depth at the running back position. They also are short on draft picks, so adding Freeman could lessen one need.

Tennessee: Freeman as a passing-downs replacement for Dion Lewis isn’t much of an improvement, but at the very least Freeman has some size that could help the Titans out in case Derrick Henry were to miss time (including if he holds out). The Titans, like the Steelers, don’t have a lot of draft capital.

Whether he signs with one of those teams or someone else, don’t expect Freeman to be a top-100 pick in 2020 drafts. He has 50-catch potential but is unlikely to see 150 total touches, which means any shot at 1,000 total yards is flying out the window. View him as a running back for your bench moving forward. 

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