Atlanta Falcons Rumors & News

Florio: Devonta Freeman Could Pass On Extension

  • The popular belief for the past several months is that Falcons running back Devonta Freeman will sign a contract extension prior to the season, but Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk isn’t so sure anymore. Evidenced by the fact that Freeman still isn’t under contract past 2017, Florio observes that it hasn’t been an easy negotiation between the two sides, and he wonders if the 25-year-old will roll the dice and go without a new deal this season in hopes of upping his stock even more. As such, the Falcons might have to decide next offseason whether to place the franchise tag on Freeman for $12.1MM – a marked increase over his $1.8MM salary for this year – or let him hit the open market.

Opinion: Falcons, Freeman Deal Coming Soon

No Talks Yet Between Falcons, Matt Ryan

The Falcons have not yet initiated contract negotiations with quarterback Matt Ryan, according to Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com.Matt Ryan (Vertical)

“That’s just the business side of it,” said Ryan. “I’m never worried too much about that. I’ve always tried to let the business people handle the business and for me, just try and take care of what I can control, and that’s playing good and preparing the right way. And I’ve always felt like if you do that, the business side of it will take care of itself.”

Ryan, the NFL’s reigning MVP, is currently signed through the 2018 campaign and will carry cap charges north of $21MM in each of the next two seasons. However, the quarterback market has exploded since Ryan inked his extension in 2013, meaning he’s now only the 13th-highest-paid signal-caller in the league with an annual salary of $20.75MM.

The Falcons and owner Arthur Blank have maintained that they will extend the 32-year-old Ryan, and the club is reportedly willing to make Ryan the top-earning quarterback in the NFL.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Minor NFL Transactions: 7/17/17

Today’s minor moves:

  • The Falcons have placed offensive lineman Trevor Robinson on the reserve/retired list, according to Adam Caplan of ESPN.com (Twitter link). An undrafted free agent in 2012, Robinson has bounced around between the Bengals, Chargers, and Falcons during his NFL tenure. In 2015, he was a full-time starter with the Bolts, but could only land a reserve/futures deal this spring. Expected to compete for a reserve role with Atlanta, Robinson has instead decided to hang up his cleats.
  • The Jaguars have waived rookie defensive back Charlie Miller with an injury settlement, the club announced today. Miller went undrafted out of Dartmouth earlier this year. He can return to Jacksonville, but he’ll have to wait three weeks plus the length of the settlement.

Poll: Which 2016 Division Winners Will Miss Playoffs?

A year ago at this time, the Broncos, Panthers and Cardinals were popular picks to rank among the NFL’s elite teams in 2016. Denver was the reigning Super Bowl champion, after all, while Carolina was coming off a 15-1, conference-winning campaign and Arizona was second to the Panthers in the NFC. Each of those teams won their divisions two years ago, and not only were they unable to repeat that feat in 2016, but all three watched the playoffs from home last winter. They were among a whopping six division-winning clubs from 2015 that failed to qualify for the playoffs last season, joining the Bengals, Redskins and Vikings.

Tom Brady

If the volatility from 2015 to ’16 is any indication, some of the league’s eight division champions from last year are in trouble as the upcoming season approaches. Once again, both Super Bowl representatives won their divisions in 2016, with the Patriots coasting in the AFC East and the Falcons knocking the Panthers from the NFC South throne. Like the Pats and the Falcons, the Chiefs, Steelers, Texans, Cowboys, Seahawks and Packers are aiming to repeat atop their divisions this season.

Of those teams, the Patriots look as though they’re in the best position to secure their division again. The Bill Belichick– and Tom Brady-led outfit has ruled the AFC East eight consecutive times, and during New England’s latest Lombardi Trophy-winning season, the club was a 14-2 juggernaut that easily led the league in point differential. While Brady’s a year older, set to enter his age-40 season, he hasn’t shown any signs of mortality, and even if he suffers an injury or falls off dramatically in 2017, the Patriots may have a starting-caliber quarterback behind him in Jimmy Garoppolo. Of course, there’s also plenty of talent on hand elsewhere on the Pats’ roster, including new additions in wide receiver Brandin Cooks, cornerback Stephon Gilmore, defensive lineman Kony Ealy, linebacker David Harris, tight end Dwayne Allen and running back Mike Gillislee.

There might not be any shoo-ins to repeat among the league’s seven other returning division winners, but it’s hard to bet against clubs with franchise quarterbacks. In the cases of the Falcons (Matt Ryan), Packers (Aaron Rodgers), Seahawks (Russell Wilson) and Steelers (Ben Roethlisberger), there’s little reason to expect anything other than excellence from under center, which makes potential playoff berths more realistic for each. The Cowboys also seem to have an outstanding signal-caller in sophomore Dak Prescott, who was so stunningly great as a fourth-round rookie that he took Tony Romo‘s job and essentially forced the four-time Pro Bowler into retirement.

Kansas City (Alex Smith) and Houston (Tom Savage) aren’t as well off under center, though the Chiefs have done plenty of winning in the regular season since turning to Smith in 2013. But if he and the untested Savage disappoint this year, they have first-rounders behind them in Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson, respectively. Poor performances or injuries could force either Mahomes or Watson into action, perhaps paving the way for the emergence of a Prescott-like rookie this year in KC or Houston and making another postseason appearance more likely.

While some of these teams look to be in enviable shape at QB, the game’s most important position, things could still go awry. The Panthers had the reigning MVP 12 months ago in Cam Newton, but his play took massive steps backward, as did the team’s, en route to a 6-10 season and a last-place NFC South finish. The likelihood is that some of last year’s division winners will end up in similar situations in 2017, going from playoff teams to bitter disappointments overnight.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Previewing Falcons O-Line, D-Line

  • The Falcons spent $28.5MM to revamp the defensive line with the hope that Vic Beasley can built on his breakthrough season, D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes. Beasley will be a focal point of opposing game plans after racking up 15.5 sacks in 2016, but the additions of Dontari Poe (one-year, $8MM deal), defensive end Jack Crawford (three years, $10.3MM) plus first round pick Takkarist McKinley (four years, $10.2MM) should help alleviate some of the pressure on the outside linebacker. The early word on Crawford is particularly promising. “Jack is a relentless in his pursuit,” defensive line coach Bryant Young said. “He’s a very hard, tough and competitive individual. I just really love that about him.”
  • More from Ledbetter, who also profiled the Falcons‘ offensive line. He writes that the Falcons still must find a backup swing tackle to replace veteran Tom Compton after he joined the Bears in free agency. Recently, we ran down the best available starting tackles, including bigger names like Ryan Clady and Austin Pasztor. Both of those guys are probably looking for full-time starting gigs, but others like Mike Adams and Will Beatty could theoretically be options for Atlanta. Meanwhile, the Falcons are holding an open competition for the startight right guard job. Wes Schweitzer and Ben Garland are top contenders, per coach Dan Quinn, but Ledbetter gets the sense that Schweitzer is in the catbird seat. That would leave Garland and fourth round pick Sean Harlow on the bench to start the year.

Falcons Owner: Devonta Freeman Extension Coming Soon

Extension talks between the Falcons and running back Devonta Freeman have seemingly progressed smoothly, and given that Atlanta reportedly believes a new Freeman deal could be in place by training camp, it’s perhaps unsurprising that franchise owner Arthur Blank became the latest member of the club’s management to express confidence a long-term pact will be completed.Devonta Freeman (vertical)

“I know that [general manager] Thomas [Dimitroff] is working hard with him and his agent (Kristin Campbell),” Blank said on 92.9 The Game (link via Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com). “I feel very confident that we’ll be able to work out something with him for a long-term solution, fairly soon I think. It’s just a matter of timing.

You can’t do all these big deals all at once; not even for financial reasons but they take time. … The relationship we have with the player is critical. It was with Desmond [Trufant]. It will definitely be that way with Devonta. It will be that way in the future with any of our other players as they come up.”

Negotiations between Freeman and Atlanta have 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” — has since been walked back. Freeman has indicated that he won’t request a trade, won’t hold out, and is willing to wait until next spring for talks to resume, while Dimitroff has suggested a Freeman extension is an important item on the Falcons’ itinerary.

Based on his production, Freeman should be able to target a contract in the $7-8MM per year range, akin to that of LeSean McCoy or Doug Martin. 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.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Opinion: Freeman Deal Will Be Tough

  • The Falcons are confident that a deal is close for Devonta Freeman, but Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter) says that it will be a hard deal to do. For starters, Freeman is one of the league’s most explosive running backs and he is only 25 years old, so he can command a whooper of a contract. But, if Le’Veon Bell re-sets the market in July with the Steelers before Freeman signs, it may get even tougher for Atlanta to get a deal done.

Falcons Believe Devonta Freeman Deal Will Happen Soon

The Falcons are confident that they’ll have a deal done with Devonta Freeman by the first week of training camp, a source tells ESPN.com’s Dianna Russini (on Twitter). The Falcons will kick off training camp at the end of July, so this means a deal could be coming in the next month or so. Devonta Freeman

Earlier today, Freeman said in a radio interview that he is willing to wait until next offseason to discuss his contract with the Falcons if the right deal does not materialize this summer. Both sides want to get a deal done, but the Falcons likely do not want to reset the running back market with a new contract for the 25-year-old.

The former fourth-round pick is slated to play out the 2017 season at a paltry $1.92MM cap number. After that, the Falcons could retain him through the costly franchise tag if they do not want to risk losing him to free agency. If Freeman continues to play at a high level and is allowed to test the open market, the bidding could quickly get crazy.

The Falcons have fellow running back Tevin Coleman under contract for two more years, but the ideal scenario would have Atlanta keeping both players in the fold. Last year, Freeman ran for 1,079 yards with 11 touchdowns. He also added 54 catches for 462 yards and two scores. Coleman, who ate into his workload, had 941 all-purpose yards and 11 total touchdowns.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Devonta Freeman Willing To Wait For Deal

It’s no secret that running back Devonta Freeman wants a new, long-term deal with the Falcons. However, he’s also making it known that he just won’t sign anything. Freeman says that he is comfortable with playing out his current contract and picking up talks next spring. Devonta Freeman (vertical)

[RELATED: Dwight Freeney Wants To Play In 2017]

I would love to get a contract done before the season, but I want it to be right,” Freeman told SiriusXM (Twitter links). “If I had to play the whole season I’m down for that.”

Freeman also expressed confidence in a multi-year deal getting done, but he stressed that both sides will have to be comfortable in order for it to work. It’s not immediately clear what it will take for Freeman to feel comfortable with an offer, particularly after his agent said earlier this year that he wants “elite” running back money. Something like LeSean McCoy‘s $8MM-per-year deal could be a target for Freeman and his reps may also see a potential new Le’Veon Bell contract as something that is within reach. Given his age and talent level, he should be able to at least top Doug Martin‘s five-year, $35.75MM contract with the Bucs, a deal which included $15MM in guarantees.

Recently, GM Thomas Dimitroff expressed confidence in an extension being on the horizon. And even though Freeman’s camp made waves during the playoffs last year, the running back is not planning to hold out. It remains to be seen whether a new deal can get signed this summer, but the good news is that the relationship between the team and player seems to be on solid ground.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.