Devonta Freeman and the Atlanta Falcons have reportedly agreed to a contract extension that makes him the highest-paid running back in the NFL.
The five-year, $41.25 million extension was first reported by NFL Network’s Michael Silver on August 9 and comes just weeks before the start of the 2017-18 season.
Here’s what you need to know about Freeman and the new contract:
1. Freeman Will Make Over $8 Million per Year
Freeman will make an annual average of $8.25 million through the deal, more than any other running back currently in the league. The five-year extension includes $22 million in guaranteed money and a $15 million signing bonus, too, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported.
Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff spoke highly of his running back in a statement to the media.
“We are very pleased that we were able to get this extension done,” Dimitroff said. “Devonta embodies everything we are looking for in a Falcon, and we are proud that he’ll be able to spend his career here in Atlanta.”
Freeman’s new deal is added onto his rookie deal, running through 2022. He still has two years left on that inaugural contract, which was set to pay him $1.8 million this season.
The two parties have negotiated a new deal ever since last season concluded, but talks had seemed to have stalled, and Freeman expressed his desire to test the market after his rookie deal.
2. Le’Veon Bell’s New Deal Is Expected to Surpass It
While the new contract extension makes him currently the highest paid in the league, that title may not last long.
It’s anticipated that Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell will come to terms with the franchise on a one-year, $12.1 million offer. The Steelers had used their franchise tag on Bell, but he declined to sign the deal and has held out of training camp thus far.
Freeman’s lucrative deal passes Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy’s contact, who has an average annual salary of $8 million.
3. Freeman Has Impressed During the Past 2 Seasons
There’s good reason for Freeman earning a new contract, as his shifty ability out of the backfield has made him one of the league’s top halfbacks.
During his rookie season in 2014, he played in all 16 games, but didn’t start. He rushed for 248 yards and 1 touchdown on the ground.
Freeman had his breakout season in 2015 when he rushed for 1,056 yards and 11 touchdowns. He proved to be a dual-threat out of the backfield behind quarterback Matt Ryan and caught 73 passes for 578 yards and 3 touchdowns.
During the 2016-17 season, he raised the bar once again, rushing for a career-best 1,079 yards and 11 touchdowns while catching 54 passes for 462 yards and 2 touchdowns.
4. He Expressed His Want for a New Deal Prior to the Super Bowl
The Falcons had the best season in franchise history during the 2016-17 campaign and advanced to the Super Bowl after defeating the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship game.
But six days before the big game against the New England Patriots, the focus was on Freeman, who told media members that he desired a new deal.
“It’s time for the Falcons to pay him like the elite back he is,” Freeman’s agent Kristin Campbell said to NFL.com. “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.”
Freeman went further, telling NFL.com that sharing the backfield with running back Tevin Coleman was a source of frustration throughout the season.
“Oh, I’m certainly struggling with it, just because I’m a competitor,” Freeman said to the website. “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.”
In the game, Freeman lived up to his words, scoring the first touchdown of the game and rushing for 121 yards, although the Falcons lost in dramatic fashion.
5. Freeman Was Drafted in 2014 out of Florida State
After a solid career at Florida State University in which he won an NCAA National Championship in 2013, Freeman declared for the NFL. He played three seasons for the Seminoles and rushed for 2,255 yards to go along with 30 touchdowns.
Freeman was selected in the fourth round, No. 103 overall, of the 2014 NFL Draft, becoming the eighth running back selected during the draft.