Devonta Freeman

Injury Notes: Falcons, Cowboys, Broncos

Devonta Freeman has cleared the league’s concussion protocol and will return to Falcons practice on Wednesday, head coach Dan Quinn told 92.9 The Game, per D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Freeman was injured on the second play of Atlanta’s game against the Cowboys in Week 10, and the veteran running back has since missed two additional games as he deals with this second concussion of the season. Fellow running back Tevin Coleman has dominated backfield touches with Freeman sidelined, but Freeman figures to take on the majority of carries from here on out.

Here’s more on injuries from around the NFL:

  • Like Freeman, Cowboys guard Zack Martin has also cleared the NFL concussion protocol and is on track to play when Dallas faces Washington on Thursday night, reports Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. Martin played only 20 offensive snaps in what was an eventual loss to the Chargers on Thanksgiving before leaving the contest with a brain injury, forcing the Cowboys to turn to backup Joe Looney to man right guard. One of the league’s best offensive lineman, Martin will attempt to help Dallas win out (essentially a requirement if the club hopes to earn a postseason berth).
  • The Colts will be without cornerback Rashaan Melvin after he suffered a “significant” hand injury, head coach Chuck Pagano told reporters, including Mike Chappell of FOX59 (Twitter link). While Indianapolis’ defense ranks 23rd in DVOA, Melvin has been one the team’s bright spots. A career reserve, the 28-year-old Melvin has started 10 games for the Colts this season while ranking as the NFL’s No. 14 corner, per Pro Football Focus. He’s scheduled to hit unrestricted free agency next spring. Tight end Erik Swoope, meanwhile, won’t return from IR this season although Indy originally believed he would do so, per Chappell (Twitter link).
  • Domata Peko‘s start streak is expected to end at 123 games, as the Broncos defensive tackle has a second degree MCL sprain that will cause him to miss time, tweets Mike Klis of 9News. Peko, 33, looked to be nearing the end of his career with the Bengals last season, but he’s rebounded in Denver. The mammoth interior defender has been outstanding against the run, helping the Broncos to a No. 1 overall ranking in run defense DVOA.
  • The Giants have designated defensive end Romeo Okwara to return from injured reserve, according to veteran NFL reporter Howard Balzer (Twitter link). The 22-year-old started four games as a rookie in 2016, and had played 78 defensive snaps this year before going down with a sprained MCL. Okwara will likely contribute on special teams when he returns to game action.

Falcons Rule Out Freeman For Week 12

The Falcons will be without star running back Devonta Freeman when the team hosts Tampa Bay on Sunday, NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reports (Twitter link). Freeman could not recover in time from a concussion he sustained in Week 10 vs. Dallas. Devonta Freeman (vertical)

Freeman, who had only missed one game in his first three seasons, will be sidelined for the second consecutive week. Out for most of the week going through the concussion protocol, Freeman was limited at practice on Thursday and Friday before being ruled out.

The team will look to Tevin Coleman to shoulder the load vs. Tampa Bay. In each of his last two games as the team’s workhorse, Coleman has received at least 20 carries and scored a touchdown in victories over the Cowboys and Seahawks.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Freeman, Broncos, Mack, Eifert

The Broncos have authored one of their worst modern-era stretches over the past five weeks, with now both their offense and defense struggling. John Elway lobbed some criticism at the team he put together.

I think we got a little bit soft. To be dead honest with you, we got a little bit soft,” the Broncos GM said, via Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post. “We went 4-0 in preseason; we started out 3-1; we get a bye week, and if you exhale in this league, you’re in trouble. To be dead honest with you, I think we exhaled and it’s hard to recover from that.”

However, the seventh-year front office leader offered support for Vance Joseph despite the first-year coach having the Broncos in danger of their first sub-.500 season in seven years. The Broncos’ schedule eases up after the Chiefs-Eagles-Patriots gauntlet, with the Bengals making a trip to Denver in on Sunday, but Joseph may profile as a one-and-done candidate if this pace continues. The Broncos have lost all five games by at least 10 points. Elway threw some cold water on that prospect, though.

There’s going to be growing pains as a head coach, especially as a first-year head coach (and) we got a lot of youth on staff when it comes to coordinators, too,” Elway said. “So there’s growing pains there. Just like with players, we have to give them a chance to grow and get better and learn from certain situations. Vance, in my mind, is doing just fine and continues to get these guys to play hard and the energy is still there. So we’ll work our way through.”

Here’s the latest from around the league going into Week 11 Sunday.

  • Devonta Freeman has been ruled out for Monday night’s Falcons-Seahawks game. This wasn’t a surprise given the star running back’s concussion history. He suffered a second concussion of the season against the Cowboys. Tevin Coleman will start.
  • Reggie McKenzie wants to sign Khalil Mack to an extension next year, and the cornerstone Raiders defender has no problem with that. Mack does not seem interested in exploring a potential path elsewhere down the line. “Of course; that’s not even a question,” Mack said, via NBC Sports Bay Area’s Fallon Smith, about wanting to stay with the Raiders for the rest of his career. “That’s a no-brainer for me, especially when you think about coming into this organization and try to build something special, that’s something you want to be a part of for a lifetime.” Given his age (26), durability, production history and the fact Von Miller‘s extension occurred during the 2016 league year, Mack is a mortal lock to become a $20MM-per-year defender and surpass his fellow AFC West pass-rushing dynamo in that department. Mack’s under contract through 2018 via fifth-year option.
  • In addition to the back surgery Tyler Eifert underwent, the impending UFA tight end had a knee procedure done recently, Dan Graziano of ESPN.com reports (on Twitter). This was not a major operation, with Graziano noting it was for a cyst that had developed on the Bengals pass-catcher’s knee. Eifert is out for the season and will profile as one of the more interesting UFAs due to his injury history and high-ceiling production when healthy.
  • The Jaguars will be without two starting offensive linemen on Sunday in Cleveland. Both Jermey Parnell and Patrick Omameh are out and didn’t travel with the team to northeast Ohio. This will be Parnell’s second straight absence due to a knee injury. A quadriceps injury will sideline Omameh, who’s worked as Jacksonville’s starting left guard throughout the season. The Jags have 10 offensive linemen on their active roster, so they’re prepared to handle the first-unit cogs’ absences.

Injury Notes: Winston, Freeman, Fuller, Hurns

We heard yesterday that Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston could miss “an extended period” of time as he recovered from a shoulder injury. However, head coach Dirk Koetter was still adamant that the franchise signal-caller would take the field again this season.

“Again, (the plan we adopted) was for Jameis to rest for two weeks and then we’re going to see where he’s at,” Koetter said (via Roy Cummings of Florida Football Insiders). “We’ve talked to multiple doctors (about it) and that’s what the plan is.

 “And I know that Jameis plans on playing again (this year). And there’s been no discussion between Jason and myself of him not playing again so that would all be something that would have to come up in the future.’’

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

  • Falcons running back Devonta Freeman is unlikely to suit up for next Monday’s game against the Seahawks, reports ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter (via Twitter). Freeman suffered his second concussion of the season this past weekend, although Schefter notes that the player isn’t expected to miss multiple games. The 25-year-old has compiled 515 rushing yards and five touchdowns this season.
  • Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee may be forced to shut it down for several weeks. NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reports (via Twitter) that the defender is unlikely to play this week or during the team’s Thanksgiving contest against the Chargers. Head coach Jason Garrett confirmed that Lee may miss several games, noting that “it might be some time” before he returns (via Charean Williams of ProFootballTalk.com).
  • Texans wideout Will Fuller suffered a cracked rib during his team’s loss to the Rams this weekend, according to Rapoport (via Twitter). Fortunately, the second-year player didn’t experience extensive damage and may only miss a single game. The 23-year-old has been a touchdown machine this season, hauling in seven scores.
  • We learned last week that Bengals running back Jeremy Hill‘s season was over, and it sounds like it was the player’s decision to be placed on the injured reserve. Head coach Marvin Lewis said it was Hill who ultimately opted for the ankle surgery, which resulted in him landing on the injured reserve (via Rapoport on Twitter). The former second-rounder has compiled only 116 rushing yards on 37 carries this season, a far cry from his 1,124-yard performance in 2014.
  • Jaguars wideout Allen Hurns suffered a right ankle injury against the Chargers on Sunday, and coach Doug Marrone doesn’t see him taking the field this weekend. “Yeah, I don’t anticipate him playing this week,’’ Marrone said (via Cummings). “I would say yes (in terms of him missing this week), but I wouldn’t know (about his availability) after that.’’ As Cummings points out, Hurns absence could force the team to finally play wideout Dede Westbrook, who is eligible to be activated off of the injured reserve.

Injury Notes: Winston, Jones, Montgomery, Freeman, Brissett

Despite putting an end to their five-game losing streak this afternoon, the Buccaneers did it without their starting quarterback Jameis Winston. The former first overall pick was expected to miss “a couple of weeks” with a shoulder injury, but general manager Jason Licht admitted during the team’s pre-game show that their franchise signal caller may actually miss more time than that, according to Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times (Twitter link).

“There is no time line on this, Licht said. “This may be an extended period.” Stroud did relay that Licht revealed his quarterback had no new damage to his shoulder, which is certainly encouraging news for his potential return.

However, while Ryan Fitzpatrick is 1-0 as a starter this season, it’s been a disappointing campaign for a Tampa Bay squad that was expecting to be playoff contenders after barely missing the postseason a year ago. Apart from the injury, Winston himself has not shown the development many thought he would in his third-year in the league. The 23 year-old has continued to turn the ball over this season (6 INT, 5 fumbles) and has accumulated a career-worst QBR of 41.3 in 8 games this season.

  • The Packers lost two running backs in today’s win over the division rival Bears. Ty Montgomery left the game with an apparent rib injury, according to Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com. While not ideal, it’s an ailment we’ve seen him overcome earlier in the season. But while his outlook remains unclear, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com hears that fellow back Aaron Jones looks to have a sprained MCL. Rapoport reports that the rookie will undergo an MRI on Monday, but has likely avoided a serious injury, even though he may miss a few weeks regardless. Third-string running back Jamaal Williams finished out the contest, but look for the team to add more depth to the position during this coming week.
  • Rapoport also passes along that Falcons running back Devonta Freeman was forced into concussion protocol during the first quarter of today’s game vs. Dallas. One of the best running backs in the NFL last year, Freeman has taken a step back along with the entire Atlanta offense in 2017. Predictably, Tevin Coleman got the bulk of the carries after Freeman left the game, and would be in line for major work in the team’s Monday night tilt vs. the Seahawks next week should Freeman not clear concussion protocol before then.
  • The Colts suffered a concussion scare of their own when starting QB Jacoby Brissett appeared lightheaded after a big hit during today’s tilt with the Steelers. However, the second-year signal caller didn’t miss much playing time after he supposedly cleared concussion testing during the team’s subsequent defensive series. But in a twist, Brissett wasn’t available for postgame comments because he was experiencing concussion-like symptoms after the close loss, according to Mike Chappell of Indy Sports Central on Twitter. The Colts have since released a statement on their own Twitter account indicating that Brissett passed two concussion tests during the contest, but then started to experience side effects after the game. It seems like a murky situation at the moment, but at the least add this development to a number of other instances this season where there was at the least some confusion regarding the NFL’s concussion protocol.

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.