For the last five months plus, Devonta Freeman and his party have made it well known that he deserves to be paid like the best backs in the league.
Ahead of the Super Bowl, NFL Network’s Michael Silver reported that Freeman’s agent claimed the back deserved “elite pay,” a comment that, due to its timing and confidence, seemed to anticipate a contract struggle coming this offseason before the terms expire in 2018.
Fast forward past the Super Bowl collapse, one badly missed block and an offseason of little change in Atlanta, and Freeman still holds himself in that same regard. The tailback said this week that, while he won’t hold out, “I want to be the best. I want to be elite paid. Whatever that is, that’s where I want to be — straight up.”
With momentum building toward an impasse, in the same vein of DeAndre Hopkins with the Texans last season, Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff took to the airwaves to set the record straight regarding Freeman’s contract situation.
“Like I’ve said before, 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 told Adam Schein on Schein on Sports. “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.”
As far as when Atlanta intends to pursue an extension or negotiation of some sort with Freeman’s representative, Dimitroff said to check back when camp rolls around.
“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,” the Falcons GM added. “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.”
The dynamic pairing of Freeman and Tevin Coleman (under contract through 2018) is arguably the most cost-effective backfield in the NFL. With both backs still on their rookie deals, the Falcons paid the duo less than $2 million combined, per Spotrac, in exchange for historic production in ’16 — 2,482 yards from scrimmage, 24 touchdowns, 6.16 yards/touch — en route to their first Super Bowl in nearly two decades.
Going forward, Freeman looks to be the workhorse back, garnering more carries, more targets and consequently more cash. But with Coleman in tow for at least two more years, will Atlanta be willing to reward Freeman with the elite contract he desires this offseason? Le’Veon Bell, a one-man wrecking crew in Pittsburgh, is earning $12.1 million on the tag; LeSean McCoy does it all in Buffalo and garners $8 million per year.
Does Freeman, a back-to-back 1,000-yard, 10-touchdown back who surrenders one of every three carries to another capable option, warrant that investment?