This series focuses on Denver Broncos whose multi-year deals are nearing the end, key players who were signed to one-year deals, and those playing under restricted free-agent tenders. They're all players eligible for unrestricted free agency in 2022, unless signed to extensions.
The next in this series focuses on running back Royce Freeman, a player who has contributed to the Broncos in past seasons, but will he be back with the team in 2022?
Let's dig in.
A third-round pick in 2018, Freeman was off to a good start his rookie season, but a high ankle sprain he suffered midway through the year limited his production down the stretch. He finished with 4.0 yards per carry average on 130 rushing attempts.
In 2019, Freeman's production declined to 3.8 YPC on 132 rushing attempts. In 2020, he had just 35 carries, though he did net 4.9 YPC, and showed improvement as a pass protector.
As a receiver, Freeman was solid in 2019 with 43 receptions on 50 targets, and he made the most of his limited looks in 2020, catching 12-of-13 targets.
Why he May be Back in 2022
Freeman has been a solid depth player, he's a decent pass catcher and he's improved as a pass protector. While he's not flashy, he can be effective.
Why he May Not be Back in 2022
Freeman has fallen out of favor with the Broncos coaching staff, having clearly dropped behind Phillip Lindsay on the depth chart in 2019, which was followed by barely getting touches in 2020 after the Broncos signed Melvin Gordon.
Lindsay is gone, but the Broncos signed Mike Boone in free agency and drafted Javonte Williams in Round 2, putting Freeman's roster spot in jeopardy, especially after the former Oregon Duck went unmentioned by head coach Vic Fangio when asked about the running back competition during minicamp.
Freeman is on the roster bubble, but is poised to stick around through training camp. While the Broncos did waive fellow 2018 draft pick DaeSean Hamilton, the wide receiver earned escalators that pushed his salary to more than $2M, which was too much for a player who was fifth on the depth chart.
Freeman earned no escalators and will make just $970,000 in 2021, so it doesn't hurt to keep him for the time being. However, he'll have to make a big impression to stick around — and even then, the Broncos may decide it's better to trade him.
If Freeman does make the roster, it's not hard to figure out it's going to be his last season with the team. He's a fine depth player, but that's all he is. Freeman isn't guaranteed to be a training camp cut, but if he's here this season, he's guaranteed to be playing elsewhere next season.
Odds he'll be back in 2022: None.
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