NASHVILLE — Random thoughts rolling through my head my while waiting for Georgia to open play in the SEC tournament:
• Once more, with feeling: There was a case for firing Georgia coach Mark Fox. There also was a case for keeping him another year. That’s why I didn’t take a position, either way. But there should be NO QUESTION that there is a mandate for success next season — and by success I mean at the very least an NCAA tournament berth.
I asked Fox about his feelings about the state of the program and this was his response: “I hate to talk about next season because we’re still playing for something. But we do have a lot of returning pieces and more talent coming in and we feel like we’ll have a very good team.”
You can read more in this column: Georgia extends Mark Fox a lifeline — the rest is up to him.
• Bad signs on Devonta Freeman front: No, I do not believe the Falcons are going to trade running back Devonta Freeman, nor do I think they will even entertain the thought. The only reason I even mention that possibility is because of this Tweet from his long-time pal, rapper Luther Campbell. Freeman is a product of Campbell’s inner-city youth program in Miami and the husband of Freeman’s agent, Kristin Thompson.
“Uncle Luke” is standing up for his guy. I get that. And he probably believes he’s doing the right thing by making a stir now, just like Kristin Campbell thought it might have been the right thing to tell NFL.com the week of the Super Bowl, “It’s time for the Falcons to pay him like the elite back he is.”
But this is not a smart way to conduct a negotiation. The Super Bowl week comment was an unnecessary, even if minor, distraction leading up to the game, and Campbell’s series of Tweets now are not doing the situation any good.
Freeman deserves a healthy and lucrative extension. He has been underpaid relative to his production and status on the team. His rookie contract after being drafted in the fourth round: four years, $2.704 million, including leap in base for next season from $600,000 to $1.797 million. He deserves more and will get more.
Freeman is not going anywhere. But this has the potential to get ugly. I don’t blame the Falcons for the slow/non-existent pace of negotiations because there’s a relative order to the offseason that maybe the Campbell’s don’t understand. Getting deals done with Desmond Trufant and Matt Schaub (an unrestricted free agent), as well as other unrestricted free agents and draft preparation, take a certain priority over Freeman because he is signed for next year.
But the backdrop of this situation suggests this will not be an easy deal for the Falcons to get done. Freeman is a great and humble person, but I’ve seen many situations when athletes are somewhat manipulated by the actions and comments of family, friends and agents. Mr. and Mrs. Campbell believe they are acting in Freeman’s best interests but they are not helping the situation.
• Hello, Connor Barwin? Edge rusher Connor Barwin, just released by Philadelpiha, has not yet been referenced as a potential Falcons’ target but maybe he should be. First, there was this selfie of him and his fiance snapped during the Super Bowl: Barwin is wearing a Falcons’ T-shirt. Second: He’s still pretty solid. The Falcons need another pass rusher — who doesn’t? — and there might be other less expensive options out there but they could do worse than Barwin.
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