Philadelphia Eagles Are Best Landing Spot for RB Devonta Freeman

Brent Sobleski@@brentsobleskiNFL AnalystJuly 23, 2020

Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman (24) runs against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Jason Behnken)
Jason Behnken/Associated Press

The Philadelphia Eagles are among the NFL's leaders in how much they value the running back position. General manager Howie Roseman has another opportunity to show that off by signing free-agent running back Devonta Freeman

Roseman made his stance on investing in running backs clear last year when the Eagles chose Miles Sanders in the second round of the 2019 draft. 

"Guess what, guys," Roseman told reporters after selecting Sanders. "We got a running back. We draft running backs in Philadelphia."

The statement may have been made in jest since the organization hadn't sunk a significant draft pick in the position during the previous decade, but it still speaks to the organization's willingness to spend a valuable asset on a position that's largely viewed around the league as devalued. Philadelphia does invest in running backs, carries more on the roster than most and utilizes each of them. 

One of the primary tenets of an analytics-influenced approach is to find inefficiencies in the market and exploit them. By signing Freeman, the Eagles could add a proven veteran at a cost-effective price. 

Freeman still can be a quality backfield option, but his perceived value doesn't match the current market.

After the Atlanta Falcons released him in March, the Seattle Seahawks offered him a one-year deal worth up to $4 million, per NFL Network's Michael Silver. However, he turned them down because he wanted more money, per SiriusXM NFL Radio's Adam Caplan (via Fantasy Points' Joe Dolan).  

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Philadelphia Eagles general manager Howie Roseman
Philadelphia Eagles general manager Howie RosemanCharlie Neibergall/Associated Press

Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians also expressed interest in adding Freeman, but he told reporters that the team couldn't afford the veteran ball-carrier at his asking price. 

At the time, the 28-year-old clearly believed he was worth more than what was being offered and was willing to sit out the upcoming season, according to NFL Network's Michael Silver. Freeman's agent, Kristin Campbell, terminated their relationship Shortly thereafter, per Silver.

The running back is now working with super-agent Drew Rosenhaus, and his tune has changed as training camp approaches.

"We want to work out a deal in the immediate future, and we are open to any team," Rosenhaus told ESPN's Adam Schefter. "He's healthy, he's in shape, and I'm on a mission to have him give a team a lift in late July."

The clock is ticking, and options are limited.

The Buccaneers and Eagles' previous interest makes them obvious choices. The Carolina Panthers and San Francisco 49ers should be in play as well for separate reasons.

Carolina lacks a quality backfield option behind Christian McCaffrey, who could use someone else to help carry some of the offensive workload. Meanwhile, Freeman played for 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan when he was the Falcons offensive coordinator, and he could help replace Matt Breida, whom the Niners traded to the Miami Dolphins earlier this offseason. Raheem Mostert's agent recently requested a trade for his client, so San Francisco's backfield is unsettled at the moment.

Current San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan during his time as the Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator
Current San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan during his time as the Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinatorPhelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

Silver reported the New York Jets and Jacksonville Jaguars previously expressed interest in Freeman as well. However, the Jets have Frank Gore behind Le'Veon Bell, and the Jaguars haven't done anything about Leonard Fournette to this point. 

That leaves the Eagles as Freeman's best option. 

After Jordan Howard signed with the Dolphins in free agency, Roseman told reporters that he wanted to add a running back this offseason.

"We only have three (running backs) on the roster right now," he said. "And in the past few years, we’ve never kept less than five."

The Eagles currently have six backs on their roster, but two of themAdrian Killins Jr. and Mike Warrenare undrafted free agents just trying to make the team. Meanwhile, Corey Clement is coming off season-ending shoulder surgery, and Elijah Holyfield didn't play a single snap last season. 

Basically, the Eagles backfield consists of Sanders and Scott for now. Both are capable, but Philadelphia's coaching staff is looking for something specific, and Freeman can provide exactly what it wants. 

"Coach (Doug Pederson) is looking for guys that have different skill sets so he can provide different looks to the defense," Roseman said in April. "It's a matchup league. That's what we're looking to provide our coaching staff with. Guys who can win one-on-one matchups."

Injuries slowed Freeman over the last two seasons, and his production dropped dramatically. In his last 16 games, the two-time Pro Bowler carried the ball 198 times for 724 yards and two rushing touchdowns. 

However, he contributes quite a bit in the passing game. His 59 receptions last season ranked fourth on the Falcons and would have been second (!) on the Eagles. As such, Freeman could spell Sanders when needed and make sure the team doesn't overutilize the diminutive Scott on passing downs. 

The Buccaneers already have a pair of young backs in Ronald Jones II and Ke'Shawn Vaughn, who need quality reps to see how they develop. According to The Athletic's Greg Auman, Jones is now up to 225 pounds and has already been working with quarterback Tom Brady this offseason. 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Ronald Jones II
Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Ronald Jones IIMark LoMoglio/Associated Press/Associated Press

"I'm feeling even better, having last year to come off of, so I feel like I'm in a great position, even better and more mentally focused than I was a year ago," Jones told Auman. 

Tampa Bay drafted Vaughn with a third-round pick in April. The staff will want to get him on the field after he racked up 2,272 rushing yards, 440 receiving yards and 24 total touchdowns with Vanderbilt over the past two seasons. 

Could the Buccaneers benefit from a veteran presence like Freeman in the backfield? Absolutely. But it isn't a necessity. 

On the other hand, the Eagles tend to carry five running backs on their roster, but they're lacking in quality options beyond Sanders and Scott at the moment.

If Freeman wants to sign with a team soon, Philadelphia would be the ideal landing spot. 

            

Brent Sobleski covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @brentsobleski.