The Falcons and running back Devonta Freeman have reached agreement on a five-year extension, the club announced today. The deal, which will keep Freeman in Atlanta through the 2022 campaign, is reportedly worth $41.25MM, which makes Freeman the league’s second-highest-paid running back in the NFL, behind only the franchise-tagged Le’Veon Bell. Freeman will earn $22MM in guarantees — a total which includes a $15MM signing bonus — and $26MM over the first three years of the pact.
Negotiations between Freeman and Atlanta had seemingly been enveloped by cooperation on both sides, as the only comment from either party that was even mildly rancorous — Freeman’s notion that he’d be seeking “elite money” — had since been walked back. Freeman had indicated that he wouldn’t request a trade, wouldn’t hold out, and was willing to wait until next spring for talks to resume, while general manager Thomas Dimitroff suggested a Freeman extension was an important item on the Falcons’ itinerary.
Given that Bell is something of an outlier as he plays out the 2017 season on the franchise tender, Freeman is now the NFL’s top-paid back currently working on a multi-year deal. His $8.125MM annual salary slots him just ahead of Bills running back LeSean McCoy, who is earning $8.01MM per annum, and the Buccaneers’ Doug Martin, who is at $7.15MM per season. Freeman had been scheduled to earn just $1.797MM in base salary for the upcoming year.
Freeman, 25, has earned Pro Bowl nods in each of the past two seasons, and averaged 1,068 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns during that span. He’s also been highly effective in the passing game, where he averaged 64 receptions and 520 yards from 2015-16. He’ll return in 2017 along with most of a Falcons offense that ranked first in DVOA a season ago, with the only real change coming at coordinator, where Steve Sarkisian is replacing Kyle Shanahan.
Mike Silver of NFL.com first reported the extension and its basic terms (Twitter links). Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link) followed with more contractual details. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.