With the already retooled offensive side of the ball having many people talking up the Bucs Super Bowl chances, adding Devonta Freeman to the backfield who push expectations into the stratosphere. However, that may have come a step closer today as Freeman responded to quotes from Bucs Head Coach Bruce Arians.
On Friday, Arians had told Pewter Report’s Jon Ledyard that the Bucs would be interested in the free-agent running back “if his price tag was reasonable.” Whilst noting that Tampa Bay doesn’t have a lot in the way of cap space, just $5.1 million according to Spotrac, Arians is clearly interested in potentially adding the former Falcon
Freeman responded to Arians’ words by saying “I read in the media that [the] Tampa Bay Buccaneers are interested,” he said. “A number of teams are interested, but we can’t negotiate through the media. The Buccaneers can reach out to me directly.”
Devonta Freeman would be an instant upgrade
So how would adding Devonta Freeman work in practice? There is scope for a long term deal that would be more cap friendly for the team. Freeman is seeking more than the $4 million per year he was apparently offered by the Seahawks. That would’ve made him the 17th highest-paid back in the league.
Given he is now 28-years-old and the league is very lukewarm on giving running backs big contracts later in their careers, asking more than $4 million may be a little excessive. While Freeman is clearly a very good running back, teams have become much more aware of injury issues as backs age, and the recent cautionary tale of Todd Gurley has scared a few off.
Whether Freeman is caught up on the amount per year or total guaranteed is debatable, but if he is only being offered one-year deals it is likely the latter he is concerned with. And rightly so, given his longevity in the league is likely capped at another 3-4 seasons tops.
The six-year veteran has amassed 3,982 career rushing yards, topping the 1,000-yard mark twice. He has a career average of 4.2 yards-per-carry and has dipped below an average of four, just once. The problem for Devonta Freeman is that year was last year where he only managed over four yards per carry in four games.
For their part, the Buccaneers finished the season as the 9th worst rushing attack averaging 95.1 yards-per-game and 3.7 yards-per-carry as a team. Ronald Jones II finally looks to be coming into his own, posting 724 yards, 6 rushing touchdowns, and 309 receiving yards.
Given the Bucs cap-restrictive options, Devonta Freeman is unlikely to be viable unless the team is willing to go in the region of a 3-year $15 million deal. While this may be palatable for Freeman, I’m not sure it is in the best interests of the team as it may curtail RoJo’s growth, along with third-round pick Ke’Shawn Vaughn.