There’s no point in arguing this: Devonta Freeman is one of the best running backs in the NFL. Now he’s finally being paid like it.
The Falcons promised to give Freeman an extension this offseason, one that would erase any doubt about his status with free agency looming after the 2017 season. They followed through on it on roughly the promised timeline, getting a deal done just as training camp was beginning. That’s not particularly surprising given that Freeman is one of the most complete backs working today, and is an integral part of the team’s offense.
Devonta Freeman and the Falcons have agreed to a five-year contract extension that makes him the NFL's highest-paid running back @nflnetwork— Michael Silver (@MikeSilver) August 9, 2017
The #Falcons & Devonta Freeman have agreed to a 5-year, $41.25 million contract extension. That's $8.25 million per year.— Knox Bardeen (@knoxbardeen) August 9, 2017
We’ll see the structure of the deal—chances are it’s heavy on guaranteed money up front, given the nature of this position—but it’s hard to quibble with the idea that Freeman should be paid like a top three back, which is what he’ll be after Le’Veon Bell signs his franchise tender. He’s been one of the 3-4 most productive, complete backs in the NFL over each of the last two seasons, after all.
This obviously raises questions about Tevin Coleman’s future with the team, but it’s thankfully not something Atlanta’s got to spend a lot of time dwelling on until his contract is up after the 2018 season. For now, the Falcons have the best 1-2 punch in the business, with Freeman serving as the bellcow, plus a promising rookie in Brian Hill. It’s a great situation to be in.
Freeman should continue to be the lead back in Atlanta, and he has the chance to retire as the team’s leading back in just about every category if he can ride out this contract and then some. We’re rooting hard for him to get there.