ATLANTA–In the span of roughly 24 hours, Devonta Freeman's groin injury went from a potential one-week malady to an eight-week hole in the Falcons' lineup.

On Tuesday afternoon, a number of NFL sources dropped a bombshell about the fifth-year tailback (FOX's Jay Glazer might have had it first); and soon after that, Falcons officials confirmed the worst of their initial fears.

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Freeman's slated to have groin surgery later in the week and would be subsequently placed on in-season injured reserve, putting the versatile back out until Week 15, at minimum.

Barring a late-season run to glory, this will likely be a lost campaign for Freeman, who back in 2016, signed the NFL's then-richest contract for a running back (six years, $43 million).

Freeman (91 total yards, zero TDs) has only played twice this season, due to various knee, foot and groin injuries.

With Freeman out, the Falcons will now rely on the tandem of Tevin Coleman (365 total yards, 3 TDs) and rookie Ito Smith (two touchdowns) to carry the rushing/receiving load out of the backfield.

However, this also places the Falcons in a long-term conundrum:

**If Coleman enjoys a monster finish to the season, then his price tag for free agency next March goes up exorbitantly.

**Consequently, even if the Falcons wanted to keep Coleman for injury-insurance purposes (with Freeman, who averaged 1,400-plus total yards, 12 TDs from 2015-17), they might never get that chance–minus the act of handing out another market-setting extension ... or slapping a highly lucrative franchise 'tag' before free agency, resulting in a one-year deal north of $12 million.