Devonta Freeman, Falcons Agree to Richest Contract for an RB in NFL

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistAugust 9, 2017

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 18: Devonta Freeman #24 of the Atlanta Falcons runs off the field after scoring during the second half against the San Francisco 49ers at the Georgia Dome on December 18, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C.  Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Atlanta Falcons and Devonta Freeman agreed to a five-year contract extension Wednesday that will make him the league's highest-paid running back, as first reported by NFL.com's Michael Silver.

According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, the deal is worth $41.25 million.

The Falcons officially announced the signing shortly after the report, and Freeman said the following about it: "This is where I've always wanted to be. I want to thank [owner] Mr. [Arthur] Blank, [general manager] Thomas [Dimitroff] and Coach [Dan] Quinn for all of their support. I feel extremely blessed, but the work and grind are just beginning."

Freeman, 25, has been nothing short of spectacular for the Falcons over the past two seasons. He had his breakthrough campaign in 2015, accumulating 1,634 yards from scrimmage and 14 touchdowns. Despite splitting backfield duties with Tevin Coleman in 2016, he continued to produce, notching 1,541 yards from scrimmage and 13 scores.

The pair of Freeman and Coleman—along with quarterback Matt Ryan and wide receiver Julio Jones—led the Falcons to the No. 1 scoring offense (33.8 points per game) and No. 2 yardage offense (415.8 yards per contest) in the NFL.

That quartet, combined with a solid offensive line and improved defense, led the Falcons to the Super Bowl, where they lost to the New England Patriots in heartbreaking fashion.

It became clear that Freeman—or at least his agent, Kristin Campbell—would push hard for a lucrative contract extension when Campbell brought up the matter in late January, a week before the Super Bowl.

"It's time for the Falcons to pay him like the elite back he is," Campbell told Silver at the time. "I expect them to make him a priority this offseason, as he's been an integral part of the dynamic offense that has gotten them to the Super Bowl."

Clearly, the team's front office agreed, even if it would have preferred Campbell hadn't publicly advocated for her client right before the Super Bowl.

The decision to pay Freeman big bucks puts Coleman's long-term future with the franchise in question. He is still under control for the next two seasons at the affordable rate of $680,000 in 2017 and $792,000 in 2018, but if he stays healthy, he could hit unrestricted free agency as potentially the top running back on the market in 2019.

The Falcons will have to decide if they want to pay major money to both running backs. Freeman is clearly a large part of the team's future. Coleman's status will now be worth monitoring as the team looks to replicate 2016's success.

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