Devonta Freeman

RB Notes: Crowell, Freeman, Steelers

Devonta Freeman‘s five-year, $41.25MM deal pleased Isaiah Crowell, who recently hired Drew Rosenhaus to handle negotiations for a potential Browns extension. The fourth-year Cleveland running back said he spent a few days analyzing the Falcons back’s deal.

I mean, you’re going to think about it,” Crowell said, via Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com. “It’s just obvious that you think about it. I feel like it’s great for him. I feel like he’s a great player and he deserves it. I feel like he changed the market. I feel like it’s a great deal for him and I feel like it’s just a great deal for all the running backs who are out here right now that deserve to get paid.”

The 24-year-old Crowell said Rosenhaus and the Browns were in “heavy negotiations” when the agent visited Browns camp in Berea, Ohio, a few weeks ago. Rosenhaus did not confirm that, via Cabot. Crowell is coming off a career-best 952-yard rushing season and stands to run behind an improved offensive line in 2017. Acknowledging he’s angling for that second contract, Crowell also wants to be known as a top-five back.

I know my time is coming. I’m just being patient and just stay working and keep working hard and just trying to be the best I can be. … “It’s time for that to change,” Crowell said of being left out of the elite running backs conversation. “That’s why I’m just trying to go out here and prove myself, just each and every play when I’m out there on the field, so that won’t be the case.”

Here’s the latest on the running back market.

  • Freeman’s Falcons deal comes with $17MM fully guaranteed and injury guarantees throughout the first three years of the contract, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reports. Bonuses will cover most of the next three years, with Freeman set to earn base salaries of $1.3MM (2017), $2MM (’18) and $3.75MM (’19). His bases rise to $6.5MM in 2020, $6.25MM in 2021 and $8.25MM in 2022, per Florio. The Falcons likely strongly suggested to Freeman they wouldn’t use the franchise tag on him in 2018, Florio writes, and taking the new-money average of $8.25MM per year protects him from an injury diminishing his value on the open market. Freeman would have been a 26-year-old UFA come March and on a salary cap that could push $180MM next year, meaning he possibly could have earned more on the open market. But the running back market has not been as fruitful as it once was, likely leading to Freeman accepting this offer while it was on the table.
  • The Steelers could sweeten Le’Veon Bell‘s $12.1MM franchise tag arrangement by adding salary, more signing bonus or incentives to entice the holdout running back to return to work, Florio writes. The sides missed the extension window and can’t resume talks until after the season, though, and Florio wonders if the Steelers’ hardball tactics with Bell will backfire. Kevin Colbert called out Bell earlier this week for what he deems a flawed holdout strategy, and Florio notes this could cause Bell — who is within his rights to not report since he can’t be fined under the present circumstances — to strengthen his resolve regarding this matter.
  • Freeman did well to secure a $15MM signing bonus — or 70 percent of the value of his deal’s first three years — in his second Falcons contract, Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap writes. LeSean McCoy‘s signing bonus represented 48 percent of his take-home pay over the first three years of his Bills deal, Fitzgerald notes, illustrating this component of Freeman’s pact as a clear win.

NFC Notes: Levy, Freeman, Elliott

Free agent linebacker DeAndre Levy has filed an injury grievance against his former team, the Lions, but head coach Jim Caldwell told reporters on Wednesday that the club handled his March release properly. “We followed everything by the rules,” Caldwell said, according to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. “We did exactly what we were supposed to do. That’s probably all I have to say on that. I don’t know the details of all these discussions and those kinds of things.” It was a no-brainer for the Lions to release Levy, whose career is in jeopardy after back-to-back injury-marred years, but his contention is that they acted in bad faith upon passing him on a physical when he wasn’t healthy. In doing so, the Lions avoided having to pay Levy the $1.75MM injury guarantee in his contract. By ridding themselves of Levy, the Lions jettisoned a player whose social justice work rubbed some in the organization the wrong way, per Birkett. It’s unclear what certain members of the franchise objected to specifically, but Levy did question the NFL on CTE and speak out in support of Colin Kaepernick‘s activism last year.

More from the NFC:

  • With the five-year, $41.25MM extension that the Falcons announced Tuesday, Devonta Freeman became the NFL’s highest-paid running back on a long-term deal. While it’s a nice contract for Freeman, it’s the latest sign that paydays aren’t what they used to be for backs, observes Jason Fitzgerald of Over the Cap. Contracts at the position have stagnated over the past several years, argues Fitzgerald, who notes that 12 pacts that RBs signed between 2003-07 were worth more than Freeman’s on a yearly basis when adjusting for inflation.
  • Speaking of running backs, the NFL won’t announce whether it’s going to suspend the Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott until at least Thursday, tweets Adam Schefter of ESPN. The league has been investigating Elliott for over a year on account of domestic violence allegations and other behavioral issues, and the slow process has frustrated both the reigning first-team All-Pro and the Cowboys.
  • The Giants worked out offensive lineman Connor Bozick on Wednesday, per Ralph Vacchiano of SNY. However, the signing of Corin Brooks means the Giants are likely to pass on Bozick, an undrafted rookie from Delaware. Bozick spent a little over a week with Detroit during the spring. He hasn’t caught on with another team since then.

Reactions To Devonta Freeman’s New Deal

fOn Wednesday morning, Devonta Freeman finally signed a long-term extension with the Falcons. The new deal means that the Falcons can keep their star running back through the 2022 season and is reportedly worth $41.25MM. Was it worth it for Freeman to give up next year’s franchise tag or a shot at the open market? Reasonable minds can differ on that, Mike Florio of PFT writes.

Freeman gets $22MM in guarantees (including a $15MM signing bonus) and that’s significant for a player who has yet to have his big payday in the NFL. On the other hand, the five-year extension hardly guarantees Freeman’s place in Atlanta for the full term. In essence, the Falcons are really only tied to Freeman for three years. After that, it’s fairly easy to hit the eject button.

Still, Freeman is not in the same position as a high-end quarterback. The risk of injury for running backs is far greater and there is greater incentive for them to grab the guaranteed dollars when they can.

Here are some other takes on Freeman’s new contract:

  • Dan Graziano of ESPN.com (Twitter link) has a more complete breakdown of Freeman’s finances. Of note: Freeman’s $3.75MM salary for 2019 is guaranteed for injury only at time of signing but converts to a full guarantee in March of 2019. That means that if Freeman’s performance declines, the Falcons can cut ties with him just two years from now. After that, his 2020-22 salaries are not guaranteed.
  • Former agent Joel Corry (on Twitter) doesn’t believe that Steelers star Le’Veon Bell will match Devonta Freeman’s $22MM of guarantees if/when he signs his long term deal with Pittsburgh. For comparison, fellow Steelers standout Antonio Brown has $19MM of guarantees on his $17MM per year deal.
  • In addition to Freeman’s deal, Cardinals back David Johnson should consider the deal Bell rejected as a part of the running back marketplace if Bell remains unsigned in 2018, Corry tweets. Prior to this year’s franchise player extension deadline, Bell said no to a five-year deal worth roughly $60MM. The proposal included $30MM across the first two years of the contract and $42MM over the first three seasons. Bell reportedly turned the deal down in part because he wanted a deal that reflected his status as an elite running back but also as a top receiving option.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Falcons Extend RB Devonta Freeman

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.Devonta Freeman (vertical)

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 tradewouldn’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.

NFC Notes: Freeman, Panthers, Vikes

An extension for Falcons running back Devonta Freeman doesn’t appear imminent, but an agreement should come together by early September, writes Dan Graziano of ESPN.com. The Falcons and Freeman’s agent, Kristin Campbell, are engaging in daily conversations, and both sides are motivated to reach a deal, adds Graziano. Atlanta regards the 25-year-old as a cornerstone player after witnessing him pile up 1,000-plus rushing yards in each of the previous two campaigns, to go with 27 touchdowns (22 on the ground, five as a receiver) and 127 catches. Freeman provided that production while making a relative pittance, and he’ll earn another low base salary this year ($1.797MM) if talks with the Falcons fall through. It doesn’t appear that will happen, however.

More from the NFC:

  • Corey Graham visited the Panthers last week, but the two sides could not agree on money, reports Adam Caplan of ESPN (on Twitter). The safety signed with the Eagles on Thursday.
  • Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodesfive-year, $70MM extension features $32.8 million in guaranteed money (excluding the $8.026MM he’ll make this season as a fifth-year option player), writes Ben Goessling of the Star Tribune. The accord also comes with $500K in per-game roster bonuses from 2018-22 and annual workout bonuses of $100K.
  • Quarterback Luke McCown‘s one-year pact with the Cowboys includes a $1MM base salary, $170K guaranteed and an $80K signing bonus, per Field Yates of ESPN (Twitter link).
  • The Redskins worked out rookie safety Alex Gray on Thursday, tweets Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. Gray previously spent time with the Buccaneers, who signed him as an undrafted free agent from Appalachian State.

Zach Links contributed to this post.

NFC Notes: Falcons, Vikes, Cowboys, Cards

Although he hasn’t gotten a new contract yet, Falcons running back Devonta Freeman reported to training camp Wednesday, per Zach Klein of WSB in Atlanta (on Twitter). Freeman insisted during the offseason that he wouldn’t hold out, so it’s not surprising that he joined his teammates at the outset of camp. While Freeman’s agent left town after a meeting with Falcons brass on Wednesday, talks are ongoing, according to ESPN.com’s Vaughn McClure, who suggests that a deal could come together by Thursday.

More from the NFC:

  • “There really hasn’t been anything that’s changed” regarding Sam Bradford‘s contract status, the Vikings quarterback told reporters, including Ben Goessling of ESPN.com, on Wednesday. Bradford is one of two high-profile Vikings signal-callers who could become a free agent next year. The other is Teddy Bridgewater, who suffered a knee injury last August that led to the Vikings acquiring Bradford from the Eagles. Bridgewater still isn’t ready to return to the gridiron, as the team went the expected route and announced Wednesday that he’ll start training camp on the active/physically unable to perform list. His contract could toll if he lands on the reserve/PUP list by by Week 1, which would give the Vikings an extra year of control over the 2014 first-round pick.
  • Searching for a Lucky Whitehead replacement, the Cowboys worked out wide receivers Corey Washington and Marvin Bracy on Wednesday, but they won’t sign either, reports Todd Archer of ESPN.com. The only one with NFL experience is Washington, who appeared in eight games with the Giants in 2014 and caught five passes. Bracy hasn’t played competitively since his redshirt year at Florida State in 2012. The speedster left football to focus on track, which worked out well. He was a 100-meter Olympian at the Rio Games in 2012 and is a former United States 60-meter dash champion.
  • Running back Chris Johnson‘s one-year deal with the Cardinals is worth $1.35MM (a bit more than was previously reported) and can max out at $2.5MM with incentives, tweets Adam Caplan of ESPN.

Falcons Rumors: Freeman, Ryan, Poe

The latest from Atlanta:

  • Devonta Freeman‘s agent left town after meeting with Falcons brass over the past couple days, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com hears (on Twitter). Meanwhile, the team isn’t putting a deadline on a deal. The Falcons had hoped to hammer something out by the time training camp started, but it sounds like completing an extension will take longer than anticipated. Recently, Le’Veon Bell rejected the Steelers’ offer of a five-year deal with a $12MM average annual value, $30MM in the first two years of the deal, and $42MM over the first three seasons. Freeman’s camp may be using the framework of that proposal as a baseline for talks.
  • There have yet to be substantive talks between the Falcons and quarterback Matt Ryan, Pelissero tweets. The Falcons will likely wait until after the season to talk contract with Matty Ice, Pelissero adds. Ryan is signed through 2018 and is slated to carry cap charges in excess of $21MM in each of the next two seasons. The league’s reigning MVP is probably willing to wait for Matthew Stafford to sign a big money extension of his own with the Lions before getting serious about next deal.
  • Falcons nose tackle Dontari Poe weighed in below 330 pounds today, giving the free agent addition his $125K make-weight bonus, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. Many expected Poe to sign a lucrative multi-year deal, but he wound up settling for a one-year deal as teams felt unsure about his conditioning.

NFC Rumors: Freeman, Giants, Eagles, Vikings

The Falcons are set to begin training camp this week, but Thomas Dimitroff said he’ll be focused on working out a contract with running back Devonta Freeman. The general manager told ESPN.com’s Vaughn McClure that he’d like to have a deal finalized by Thursday at the latest (Twitter link).

We’ve heard reports throughout the offseason that the two sides would ultimately agree on a new deal, with owner Arthur Blank recently stating that an extension was coming “fairly soon.” Meanwhile, while Freeman is obviously seeking a new contract, he’s more than willing to wait for a deal that is reflective of his talent. Over the past two years, the running back has collected at least 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns per season, and he’s averaged 63 receptions during that same span.

Last week, Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com wondered if the extension delay could be attributed to uneasy negotiations. Earlier today, former agent Joel Corry tweeted that Freeman’s camp should “insist” that the recently-rejected contract offer to Le’Veon Bell “reflects the top” of the running back market.

Let’s take a look at some more notes from around the NFC…

  • Giants wide receiver Roger Lewis is no longer facing charge of operating a vehicle while impaired, as Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com writes. Of course, the 23-year-old could still face punishment from the NFL even though he is legally in the clear. Last year, Lewis appeared in 13 games for the G-Men and finished with seven catches for 97 yards and two touchdowns.
  • It sounds like Eagles fifth round pick Shelton Gibson may be a longshot to make the Eagles’ 53-man roster. The wide receiver is “by no means where he wants to be or where we want him to be,” said head coach Doug Pederson (Twitter link via Brandon Lee Gowton of SB Nation).
  • Meanwhile, Pederson discussed the Eagles‘ decision to move on from receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, who was waived earlier this month. “With the additions of some of the young guys picked up this spring, we just felt like it was in his interest and our best interest to let him find another suitor and keep developing our younger guys in that role,” Pederson said (via Zach Berman of Philly.com). The former second-round pick was traded to the Eagles last offseason, and he finished his lone season in Philly with 36 receptions for 392 yards and two touchdowns.
  • With Dalvin Cook, Latavius Murray, and Jerick McKinnon ahead of him on the Vikings‘ depth chart, C.J. Ham knows that playing fullback gives him the best chance at making the 53-man roster, Mark Craig of the Star Tribune writes. Although he is still listed as a running back, the Vikings have been transitioning him to fullback since the middle of OTAs. The Vikings are unsure as to whether they’ll carry a true fullback or if they’ll just rely on reserve tight ends to do some lead blocking. “That’s part of the [evaluation]; Do we keep a fullback on the roster or do we add more tight ends,” said head coach Mike Zimmer. “That should all shake out here in this preseason. If a guy is going to play say 10 plays a game, he’s also got to be really good on special teams to make the squad.”

Zach Links contributed to this post.

NFC Notes: Cards, Falcons, Panthers, Hawks

If Carson Palmer retires after the 2017 season, Kent Somers of The Arizona Republic (on Twitter) could see a scenario in which the Cardinals make a run at Kirk Cousins or perhaps Sam Bradford. Both players would be a schematic fit for the Cardinals and there won’t be a ton of other established quarterbacks available. If Cousins is an unrestricted free agent, the Cardinals could have a hard time bidding against the rival 49ers as they will be loaded with cap space.

A few more items from the NFC:

  • 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.
  • Panthers kicker Graham Gano is on the bubble thanks to the addition of seventh-round pick Harrison Butker, David Newton of ESPN.com writes. The selection of the Georgia Tech product was the first time the Panthers have ever drafted a place kicker and it’s a sign that they could be moving on from the veteran. Gano missed several big kicks last season and converted on just 78.9% of his attempts.
  • Seahawks quarterback Trevone Boykin still has to appear in front of a judge in August for his March arrest, but he has some good news on another front. Boykin has skirted jail time for a separate potential parole violation, as Gregg Bell of The News Tribune writes. Boykin was facing up to a year in jail for that charge, but he’ll pay a small fine instead. The Seahawks reportedly are not expecting Boykin to be disciplined by the league for his actions, so his off-the-field missteps shouldn’t impact his job security as Russell Wilson‘s backup.
  • It was a busy afternoon in Carolina, which signed guard Trai Turner to a big-money extension and said goodbye to offensive tackle Michael Oher.

Connor Byrne contributed to this post.

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.