“Said all that I could say, now I play with thoughts of retirement.”
These were lyrics J. Cole rapped in DJ Khaled's "Jermaine's Interlude" in 2016. Cole's popularity was still peaking, but this lyric raised the question from the public if he’d really hang it up. Fast forward to 2020, and Cole has dropped two albums since, is arguably one of the top three most popular rappers in today’s era and he still flirts with the idea of retiring.
Devonta Freeman is not a top three running back, nor still at the peak of his career, but he can be a serviceable back to a team that needs depth. And that might be something Freeman is not interested in.
After talks of a contract stalled with the Seattle Seahawks, reports came out that Freeman was mulling retirement this upcoming season. Whether it’s true or not, there may be two reasons why Freeman may be giving football a rest.
Since 2015, Freeman has been the lead running back for the Falcons. Even when he was sharing snaps with Tevin Coleman, he was still the first back to see the field when the game started. It may take a minute for Freeman to realize, but he doesn’t have that same speed or agility like he once had to be a lead back.
If he were to sign with the Seattle Seahawks, there’s a chance they’d be playing running back by committee, and when Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny return to full health who knows how things would shake out. Following the Seahawks signing of RB Carlos Hyde, that option now appears to be off the table. The Philadelphia Eagles also offered him a contract, but they’d also be playing running back by committee.
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Either way it goes, it looks like whatever team wants Freeman, he’ll be playing in less than a full-time role.
But maybe it’s not about the role, what if it’s about the money?
Ian Rapoport stated that Freeman still wants big money, and $4 million a year seems to be nowhere near his price range. If he still believes that he has the skills to be paid around $7-10 million, then he might be waiting for a while to join a team.
The past couple of years have not been kind to Freeman, with injuries piling up and forcing him to miss games. Other teams around the league are looking at his history and therefore are offering him a one-year “prove it” deal.
Freeman is probably looking at Todd Gurley and asking "Why not me?" The thing is that even though Gurley may have an arthritic knee, he still showed glimpses last year of possibly still being on top of his game with 12 rushing touchdowns. Freeman had a few good games, but not enough to raise eyebrows. It took him until week 14 to score his first rushing touchdown.
Freeman may never come to that “be real” moment with himself anytime soon, and that could hurt him finding a team. If he thinks he still has some left in the tank, he should play now and worry about the money later. He’s earned his fair share from the Falcons since 2017.
And to think it was more about the money for these athletes. So much for the love of the game.