Falcons stars Matt Ryan and Devonta Freeman are set to play the biggest game of their football careers on Sunday, yet some of the talk this week has been on their pay for next season.
While Freeman has said contract negotiations aren’t a distraction, hearing team owner Arthur Blank tell ESPN.com that Ryan will be financially rewarded for his MVP-worthy performance this season while failing to mention Freeman might be cause for concern.
“[Ryan] needs to be compensated well, certainly,” Blank said. “And he will be.”
Those are the words Freeman wanted to hear for himself since his agent approached the Falcons front office recently seeking an “elite” contract before his rookie deal expires after next season. The third-year running back rushed for 1,079 and 11 touchdowns this season en route to his second Pro Bowl selection.
Though his history of head injuries led to talk that his career might be finished, Shields, who turned 29 in December, told the Wisconsin State Journal last month that he wasn’t ready to hang it up just yet.
“I’m thinking it’s not over. I’ve still got more (football) in me,” Shields said. “… I just love the game, man, and I feel that I can get back out there and play.”
If he can demonstrate he is healthy, another team likely would be willing to at least give him a shot in training camp, but moving on was an easy decision for the Packers. They will save about $8.5 million against the salary cap by cutting Shields ahead of the final season of his four-year, $39 million contract.
In addition to pondering his football future, Shields also is facing two misdemeanor counts of marijuana possession that were filed last month by Wisconsin authorities. The charges stem from an October search of his house by narcotics officers that revealed raw marijuana, muffins that contained marijuana, and other drug-related paraphernalia.