Financial impact is the main reason for such a move, as Freeman is now through the three seasons with the highest dead cap numbers. That figure drops from $12.75 million to $6 million in 2020, making that type of release and resulting financial burden easier to bear. Conversely, Freeman's cap hit (if he's kept on the team) rises from $6.75 million to $9.5 million in 2020. This contract was designed for such a parting of ways when it was signed in 2017.
Back then, Freeman was an integral part of Atlanta's offense, which had reached Super Bowl LI with Kyle Shanahan calling the offensive shots and returned to the Divisional Round of the playoffs in 2017. Freeman and teammate Tevin Coleman made up the backfield duo that served as Atlanta's offensive foundation under Shanahan and his replacement, Steve Sarkisian. Freeman had rushed for exactly 3,000 yards and 29 touchdowns from 2015-2017. He was worth the money.
Since then, Freeman has played in just 16 games over two seasons, rushing for 724 yards and two touchdowns to go along with 433 receiving yards and four receiving scores. Coleman is in San Francisco, where his team just fell painfully short in Super Bowl LIV. A lot has changed.
Freeman's 3.9 yards per carry in 2019 were a career low, but it's not all on the running back. Atlanta was generally abysmal for a large portion of 2019, and Freeman was returning from a groin injury that landed him on injured reserve after just two games in 2018.
There might still be some tread left on Freeman's tires, which could attract interest from other teams. Rapoport reported the Falcons nearly dealt Freeman to Detroit at the trade deadline in 2019, indicating a running back-needy organization could be eyeing the 28-year-old, should his time in Atlanta actually come to an end.