Devonta Freeman

Dimitroff Confident Devonta Freeman Extension Coming

A Devonta Freeman extension became a talking point during Super Bowl week, just before the running back became eligible to sign one as a fourth-year player.

Freeman wants “elite” running back money after putting together back-to-back Pro Bowl seasons that each featured 1,500-plus yards from scrimmage. The Falcons appear to be in stride with their starting running back regarding an extension. After owner Arthur Blank voiced support for Freeman remaining in red and black long-term, GM Thomas Dimitroff believes he could make that happen.

We want him here and he’s a very important part of our organization. Contrary to what people were saying around the Super Bowl time with what came out, we’re ready in the relatively near future to have some discussions with their representation,” Dimitroff said during a radio interview with Adam Schein (via Jeremy Bergman of NFL.com).

Devonta, he’s a really good guy. He’s really — as far as his personality — he’s so hyper competitive. … He’s an urgent, angry runner, which we want and we know is important for us. We want him to be around for years to come and we’re confident that we’ll be able to get it done.”

Dimitroff targeted training camp as a window for this extension to potentially occur. The Falcons have also expressed desire to extend Matt Ryan, although two years remain on the reigning MVP’s contract, and recently reached a long-term agreement with Desmond Trufant. Freeman’s position doesn’t demand that kind of money, but given the ball-carrier’s age (25) and production coming into Year 4, he is in position to be paid like a top-tier running back.

Freeman could well target LeSean McCoy‘s $8MM-per-year deal. The running back market also could be different by then, should the Steelers extend the franchise-tagged Le’Veon Bell by July 15.

The Falcons also have Freeman complement Tevin Coleman, who ate into the starter’s workload in the games he played. Coleman, 24, has two years remaining on his deal.

We’ve talked about approaching these types of contracts and situations usually going into camp is when we start talking about them and really start having some discussions about it,” Dimitroff said. “That’s not a hard line for us, but in my mind, I like to make sure that we have those kind of things worked on. You know, look, he’s in a really good space here, he loves being here and he loves playing for Dan Quinn.”

Freeman is not planning to hold out and will make $1.8MM this year on his rookie contract, which will expire at season’s end.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: Lions, Bucs, Falcons, 49ers

By the time Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford‘s career ends, he could supplant Peyton Manning as the NFL’s all-time earnings king, observes Joel Corry of CBSSports.com. Manning made nearly $250MM during his career, and, as Corry writes, Stafford has a few factors on his side that might help him eventually surpass the former Colt and Bronco. Stafford entered the league at a young age (21), for one, and as the No. 1 pick two years before the league introduced the rookie wage scale. That enabled him to land a mammoth deal (six years, $72MM) prior to ever playing a professional down. Further, Stafford has already signed a lucrative extension, having inked a three-year, $53MM pact in 2013. By agreeing to that short-term deal, Stafford is now in position to cash in once again by 2018. To this point, the 29-year-old has made more money through the age of 28 ($110.5MM) than anyone else in league history, per Corry, who adds that Stafford will have a chance to go past $200MM by 2021 and might even hit $300MM before his playing days are over.

Now for the latest on a few NFC backfields:

  • Suspended running back Doug Martin doesn’t seem like a sure bet to play a down for the Buccaneers in 2017, as head coach Dirk Koetter told ESPN’s Wendi Nix on Thursday (via JoeBucsFan.com) that it’s “yet to be determined” what will happen at the end of his three-game ban. That jibes with a February report from FanRag’s Roy Cummings, who relayed that the Bucs will “play the Martin situation out.” Tampa Bay can afford to take its time with Martin, whose $7MM salary for next season is no longer guaranteed on account of his suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs. It could help his cause, though, that the Buccaneers didn’t use a high draft pick on a runner, waiting until the fifth round to grab Jeremy McNichols, and haven’t added any notable veterans to their backfield this offseason.
  • While Falcons running back Devonta Freeman won’t hold out in hopes of landing a new contract, he continues to seek top-tier money relative to his position. “I want to be elite paid. Whatever that is, that’s where I want to be — straight up,” Freeman told Josina Anderson of ESPN. Freeman is in lockstep with his agent, Kristin Campbell, who declared prior to Super Bowl LI that the 25-year-old should be in line for “elite” money. As of now, Freeman’s not on track to approach the NFL’s highest-paid backs in 2017, the final year of his contract, as he’s slated to make $1.8MM. There’s still plenty of time for an extension to come together, of course, and both Freeman and the Falcons have made it clear that they want to work something out.
  • Rookie fourth-rounder Joe Williams will have a legitimate shot to overtake Carlos Hyde as the 49ers’ No. 1 running back in 2017, opines Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area. The John Lynch– and Kyle Shanahan-led Niners traded up in the draft for Williams and are quite bullish on the ex-Utah star, notes Maiocco, who also points out that Hyde is entering a contract year. San Francisco, then, isn’t tied to Hyde for the long haul, and its new regime has no built-in loyalty to the three-year veteran. It’s worth noting that Tony Pauline of DraftAnalyst.com reported last month that the 49ers’ bigwigs aren’t enamored of Hyde.

Falcons’ Devonta Freeman Won’t Hold Out

Devonta Freeman‘s desire for a new deal is well-documented, thanks in large part to the public approach his management team has taken in the last year. However, the running back says that he won’t be a holdout this summer in an effort to spur talks. Devonta Freeman (vertical)

[RELATED: Eagles DE Brandon Graham Won’t Hold Out Either]

I’m going to play,” Freeman said (via ESPN.com’s Vaughn McClure). “Like I said, business is going to get handled regardless of what, so I just come to work. I’m going to play regardless. I love football. I love to compete. It doesn’t matter about what I did last year, how many Pro Bowls I got, a thousand yards. I want to do it again and even get better, hopefully one day be a Hall of Famer. I want to leave a legacy. And holding out, that’s not going to leave a legacy, because if I hold out, I’m behind. I don’t want to be behind. I want to gain.”

Freeman also indicated in April that he would not stay home during offseason activities, but this is strongest assertion to date. Freeman is definitely underpaid as he’s set to earn $1.8MM in 2017, but he’ll remain solely focused on football as he gears up for the final year of his rookie deal.

It ain’t hard at all, because I’m good,” said Freeman. “I play football because I love it. … I spoke to other guys about being in similar situations that I’m in right now. The main thing I can do right now is focus on my business, and my business is being the best Devonta Freeman I can be. And business will get taken care of outside of what I do and what I bring. I can just focus on me. When it happens, it happens. It’s going to be a surprise. I’m just patient.”

Freeman’s agent said he would be seeking “elite” money back in January and the running back himself hinted that he was frustrated about splitting carries with 2015 third-round pick Tevin Coleman. If he’s still demanding “elite” money on his next deal, that could mean something that resembles or even exceeds LeSean McCoy‘s five-year, $40.05MM deal signed back in 2015. McCoy’s yearly average of $8.01MM is second only to Le’Veon Bell‘s one-year, $12.12MM tender and his $18.25MM total guarantee is the highest of any non-rookie running back in the league.

Falcons owner Arthur Black is on record as saying that he wants to retain Freeman for years to come, so a new deal could come together this summer without any brazen tactics from the running back or his camp.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Falcons Notes: Mixon, Freeney, Coleman

The Falcons are not interested in drafting running back Joe Mixon, and have removed him from their draft board given his prior assault charge, according to Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Atlanta becomes the third known to team to have ruled out Mixon, joining Miami and New England. Like the Dolphins and Patriots, though, the Falcons don’t necessarily need a player of Mixon’s caliber given the level of talent on their roster. In Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, Atlanta already boasts one of the better backfield tandems in the league, and can easily make the decision to avoid the headache of adding Mixon.

Here’s more from Atlanta:

  • Although veteran pass rusher Dwight Freeney is likely to continue his career in 2017, the Falcons won’t decide whether to offer him a new contract until after the draft, per Schultz. Freeney, 37, probably wouldn’t have been participated in Atlanta’s spring workout sessions, so the club doesn’t feel the need to hurry into an offer. Last season, Freeney played on roughly a third of the Falcons’ defensive snaps in 2016, and posted three sacks and 18 hurries. He’s PFR’s No. 1 free agent edge defender. At present, Atlanta’s defensive end depth chart includes Vic Beasley, Adrian Clayborn, Derrick Shelby, Courtney Upshaw, Brooks Reed, and Jack Crawford, while the club could also select another pass rusher in the draft.
  • A long-term extension with Freeman is also on the back burner, reports Schultz, and the Falcons don’t expect to begin contract discussions until the start of training camp. Negotiations could also bleed into the regular season. Freeman, 25, is scheduled to earn $1.797MM in 2017, and was at one point reportedly looking for “elite” running back money. While Freeman and his agent have since walked back those comments, Freeman is surely still hunting for a hefty deal after combining for 2,100-plus rushing yards, 27 touchdowns (22 on the ground, five receiving) and 127 catches from 2015-16.
  • The Falcons could have interest in trading up from the No. 31 pick, according to D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution“To move up in the 20s, there will be opportunities there,” general manager Thomas Dimitroff said. “There are some interesting candidates that will be around there in the early parts of the 20s.” Atlanta could target a number of positions of Day 1 of the draft, but edge rusher or guard seem to be the club’s clearest need areas. In PFR’s first 2017 mock draft, I sent UCLA defensive end Takkarist McKinley to the Falcons at the end of the first round.
  • In case you missed it, the Falcons plan to exercise left tackle Jake Matthews‘ 2018 fifth-year option. The former No. 6 overall pick had a decent showing last year, earning a 74.3 overall score on Pro Football Focus. That mark left Mathews ranked No. 37 among all tackles, putting him in the middle of the pack out of 78 qualified players. He’ll earn roughly $12.81MM in 2018, but that figure is guaranteed for injury only until the first day of the 2018 league year.

South Notes: Falcons, Saints, Bucs, Texans

The Falcons expect to lock up Devonta Freeman with an extension in the coming months, but the running back told Sporting News’ Alex Marvez he won’t skip the team’s offseason football activities if a new deal doesn’t come. “I’m doing everything,” said Freeman. “I love these guys. I love football.” Freeman was planning to seek “elite” money as of January, though it’s unclear if that remains the case. For now, he’s in line to make just under $1.8MM next season – the final year of his rookie contract – after combining for 2,100-plus rushing yards, 27 touchdowns (22 on the ground, five receiving) and 127 catches from 2015-16.

More from the South divisions:

  • When free agent running back Adrian Peterson visited the Patriots earlier this month, they put him through a workout. That wasn’t the case with the Saints, per Ben Volin of the Boston Globe (Twitter link). Peterson’s meeting with the Saints reportedly “went well,” and it seems each side has interest in working out an agreement.
  • Florida State running back Dalvin Cook is on his way to Tampa Bay to visit the Buccaneers, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. Cook, who was college teammates with Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston in 2014, joins Oklahoma’s Joe Mixon as the second draft-bound runner Tampa Bay has eyed in the past week. Cook figures to come off the board in the first round. The Buccaneers are slated to pick 19th.
  • The Saints hosted UCLA defensive end Takkarist McKinley on Monday, according to SiriusXM NFL Radio (Twitter link). Even though he’s amid a monthslong recovery from shoulder surgery, McKinley could go in the opening round, where New Orleans has two selections (Nos. 11 and 32). McKinley’s coming off a 10-sack season, one-third of the Saints’ 27th-ranked total from 2016.
  • Western Kentucky offensive lineman Forrest Lamp visited the Texans on Wednesday, reports Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. The guard seems likely to come off the board somewhere in the 20s, which is in the neighborhood of the Texans’ pick (No. 25). In Houston, Lamp would presumably unseat left guard Xavier Su’a-Filo, who has disappointed since going 44th overall in 2014. Although Su’a-Filo started a career-high 15 games last season, Pro Football Focus ranked him as one of the NFL’s worst guards.

NFC South Notes: Saints, Manziel, Falcons

Saints head coach Sean Payton had breakfast with free agent quarterback Johnny Manziel last week, but New Orleans has no plans to sign Manziel, a team source tells Jason Cole of Bleacher Report (Twitter link). Indeed, Payton says his meeting with Manziel was focused on getting to know the young signal-caller, as Mike Triplett of ESPN.com writes. In early March, there was word that Manziel was drawing “real” NFL interest, and Manziel says he is sober and focusing on his comeback.

Here’s more from the NFC South:

  • The Falcons hope to come to an extension agreement with cornerback Desmond Trufant “very soon,” Atlanta general manager Thomas Dimitroff tells Alex Marvez of the Sporting News. Earlier this month, a report indicated the Falcons and Trufant were nearing a “lucrative” long-term deal, but no announcement has since been made by the club. Atlanta is also planning to get a contract with running back Devonta Freeman “wrapped up,” per Dimitroff. In January, Freeman was said to be seeking “elite” running back money, but he and his agent have since walked those comments back.
  • Veteran guard Chris Chester isn’t in the Falcons‘ plans for 2017, and the team ultimately expects him to retire, according to Marvez. Chester, entering his age-34 season, was the weak link on a solid Atlanta offensive line in 2016. PFR pointed to right guard as an area of need when assessing the Falcons’ offseason strategy, and while the club has only added Hugh Thornton in free agency, they could still address the interior offensive line in the draft.
  • Jonathan Stewart‘s extension with the Panthers is for one year, but the new deal affects both his 2017 and 2018 cap charges, as Field Yates of ESPN.com reports. Stewart accepted a slight paycut in 2017 in exchange for an effective guarantee of $3.6MM, while the base values of his next two seasons are $4.25MM and $3.75MM. The veteran running back can also earn up to $750K annually via rushing yards incentives.
  • Saints general manager Mickey Loomis considers cornerback and defensive “must” additions this offseason, according to Larry Holder of NOLA.com (Twitter link). So far, New Orleans has addressed those area with bit acquisitions, although the team is considering a big swing as they negotiate with Patriots restricted free agent corner Malcolm Butler.

Falcons’ Devonta Freeman Won’t Request Trade

Despite talk of him being unhappy with his current contract, Falcons running back Devonta Freeman says he has no plans to seek a trade out of Atlanta, ESPN.com’s Vaughn McClure writes. Devonta Freeman

This is coming out of my mouth: I definitely know I’m going to be playing for the Atlanta Falcons,” Freeman said. “This is the team I want to play for. I’m almost 100 percent for sure business will be taken care of because we’re all in this thing to win and have success.”

During Super Bowl week, Freeman’s agent Kristin Campbell made waves by saying she wanted Freeman to be paid like an “elite” running back. The timing was not ideal, but GM Thomas Dimitroff said it wasn’t really a distraction for the team. Then, days ago, Kristin’s husband Luther Campbell (better known as Uncle Luke of 2 Live Crew fame) fired off a tweet that seemed to indicate a trade request could be coming down the pike. Now, Freeman has put such talk to rest.

Freeman is coming off his second consecutive regular season with 1,000+ rushing yards, 13+ all-purpose touchdowns, and upwards of 50 receptions. He racked up those numbers despite splitting carries with 2015 third-round pick Tevin Coleman.

Freeman’s contract is set to expire after the 2017 season. Barring an extension, he’ll carry a modest ~$1.92MM cap number before being eligible for free agency.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Trufant, Falcons, Packers, Bucs

Falcons cornerback Desmond Trufant may have missed the final half of the regular season and his team’s entire playoff run, but the 26-year-old is still in line to get a hefty payday. Speaking to ESPN.com’s Vaughn McClure, general manager Thomas Dimitroff said the organization will look to extend the 2013 first-rounder this offseason.

“He’s a top-tier corner, no question about it,” Dimitroff said. “We believe that he’s going to do some excellent things for us into the future.”

Trufant is signed through 2017 after the Falcons picked up his fifth-year option (worth an estimated $8MM). The four-year veteran was plenty productive through his team’s first nine games, compiling 31 tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles, and an interception. While several defensive backs, including former second-rounder Jalen Collins, stepped up in Trufant’s absense, Dimitroff was still adamant that the cornerbacks were led by the former Pro Bowler.

“Trufant’s value has not dropped at all,” Dimitroff said. “We are really excited about having Trufant back and [Robert] Alford back and Jalen Collins back and Brian Poole back. And then the other guys who have contributed to us this year in [C.J.] Goodwin and Deji Olatoye. Those guys are a real cool and encouraging group of secondary [players], and the guy who is at the front of that is Trufant.”

Let’s take a look at some other notes as we wrap up this Tuesday evening…

  • Trufant isn’t the only player who the Falcons are looking to extend. McClure writes that the organization is also trying to lock up quarterback Matt Ryan and running back Devonta Freeman“Our focus in free agency is to, again, focus on the guys on our team to get them done first,” Dimitroff said. “It’s probably this year more than any, it’s where our focus is.”
  • The Falcons have received “multiple requests” from other teams to interview their assistant coaches, tweets Alex Marvez of The Sporting News. The reporter notes that some coaches will be allowed to talk to opposing teams while others will not.
  • By releasing running back James Starks earlier today, the Packers created more than $2.8MM in salary cap space, tweets former NFL agent Joel Corry. The transaction left a reasonable $750K of dead money on the team’s cap.
  • The Buccaneers worked out long snapper Kameron Canaday today, reports Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (via Twitter). The former Portland State product won the Cardinals long snapper gig heading into the regular season, but he was released following a botched snap in Week 3. The Buccaneers did add a long snapper earlier today in Dax Dellenbach, but that shouldn’t prevent the team from adding another player for competition.

Extra Points: Raiders, 49ers, Falcons, Bears

Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson decided Monday to rescind his offer to help the relocation-minded Raiders pay for a stadium in Las Vegas, but that’s not going to faze the franchise. The Raiders issued a statement in response to Adelson’s choice to withdraw support, saying: “The Raiders deeply appreciate the efforts of the Adelson family to bring the Raiders to Las Vegas. We know this project could not have advanced to this point without them. The Raiders remain steadfast in honoring Mark Davis’ commitment to Governor Sandoval and the State of Nevada to pursue relocation to Las Vegas” (via Paul Gutierrez of ESPN.com).

Without Adelson, who had planned to give the Raiders $650MM toward a proposed $1.9 billion facility, the team plans to invest $1.15 billion and accept operating responsibilities, Sandoval’s office told the Associated Press (Twitter link via Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle). The Raiders could receive help from Goldman Sachs to make that happen.

Now the latest from the NFC:

  • Rookie general manager John Lynch declared Monday he’ll “aggressively pursue” people he has relationships with to join him in the 49ers’ front office (Twitter link via Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com). That won’t include rumored candidate and longtime NFL head coach Mike Shanahan, whom Lynch played for in Denver from 2004-07 and who’s the father of soon-to-be 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan. Lynch expects to listen to the elder Shanahan’s advice, but he’s not going to take an official role with the 49ers, tweets Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports.
  • Kristin Campbell, the agent for Falcons running back Devonta Freeman, publicly pushed for a lucrative contract extension for her client Monday afternoon. Campbell has since spoken again on Freeman’s future, telling D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that she and Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff “are on the same page” and will engage in extension talks during the offseason. Campbell will seek top three running back money for the 24-year-old Freeman, a back-to-back Pro Bowler. “Who was the last running back to go to back to back Pro Bowls?” Campbell said. Adrian Peterson. Adrian is considered one of the most prolific backs of the past 10 years, wouldn’t you say?” Peterson’s current contract pays him an average of $14MM per year, which easily tops his position.
  • Wide receivers coach Curtis Johnson turned down a new contract to return the Bears for a second season and is mulling taking a position with a different team, reports Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune. Johnson could return to New Orleans, where he coached from 2006-11, Biggs suggests. The Saints are in the market for a WRs coach, having lost John Morton to the Jets over the weekend.
  • The Bills will hire Phil McGeoghan to coach their receivers, relays ESPN’s Adam Caplan (Twitter link). McGeoghan, who was the Dolphins’ assistant receivers coach from 2012-15, spent last season coaching East Carolina’s wideouts.
  • Contrary to a report from last week, the Eagles and personnel executive Rick Mueller have not yet parted ways. Mueller is working from home and will join the Eagles at next month’s scouting combine, though his contract is up in May, per Geoff Mosher of 97.5 The Fanatic (Twitter link).

Devonta Freeman Seeking “Elite” Money

Falcons running back Devonta Freeman has a rather important game to play Sunday, but his representative is already looking past Atlanta’s Super Bowl LI matchup with the Patriots and ahead to the offseason. Given Freeman’s contributions to the NFC champions’ prolific offensive attack, he deserves “elite” money, agent Kristin Campbell told Mike Silver of NFL.com. Freeman still has another year left on his contract, but Campbell expects the Falcons to prioritize an extension for him in the offseason.

Devonta Freeman

Freeman, a three-year veteran, is coming off his second straight regular season with 1,000-plus rushing yards, 13-plus total touchdowns and over 50 receptions. He has amassed those quality numbers despite working in a timeshare with 2015 third-round pick Tevin Coleman, which has frustrated Freeman and his agent.

“Oh, I’m certainly struggling with it, just because I’m a competitor,” Freeman said. “I just want to be around the ball as much as I can, to help the team win. Now we’re in the Super Bowl, and this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I don’t know how many carries or touches I’m gonna get going into this game, but I’m gonna try to make the most of every opportunity I get.”

Campbell, meanwhile, lamented that Freeman “gets significantly less opportunity than the others” who are top-caliber backs around the NFL. She also pointed to Freeman’s durability as another reason he deserves a sizable payday, as he has missed just one game in his career. With both that and Freeman’s production in mind, Campbell has reached out to the Falcons regarding an extension, but they haven’t yet responded. However, general manager Thomas Dimitroff informed Silver the Falcons are “extremely encouraged by Devonta, as a player and a person on this team” and will “address (his contract situation) after the season.”

For his part, Freeman insists he’s focused on the task at hand this week, noting that the Falcons have “too much to play for. After that, well, I feel like I’ve done my part. Now, hopefully, I’ll get rewarded.”

Freeman has piled up 209 total yards (87 rushing, 122 receiving) and two touchdowns in playoff wins over the Seahawks and Packers. He could, of course, further make his case for a massive raise over his current $600K salary with another strong showing on the game’s biggest stage Sunday.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.