As one of the more productive offensive players in the NFL over the last two years, Devonta Freeman expects to be paid like one once his rookie deal runs out. The Atlanta Falcons have enjoyed his versatility and scoring ability immensely, especially last season, but all good things come to an end, and this might too.
Freeman has talked this offseason with the Falcons about an extension, and it seems both sides are interested in that happening. However, Freeman also wants elite money, and said he’ll play wherever he can land that kind of deal. Obviously, the $1.9 million he’ll make in 2017, his fourth and final year of his rookie deal, doesn’t count as elite money.
What does count as elite money? Probably over $6 million a season, at least for a running back. Le’Veon Bell will be making $12.1 million in 2017, more than any other running back in the league, followed by LeSean McCoy of the Bills with a $8.9 million salary cap value. Five more running backs are slated to make more than $6 million next season, although one of them, Doug Martin ($7 million cap hit), might not play a single down in 2017 due to suspension.
With that in mind, and the Falcons having only $3.3 million of cap space heading into this season and projected for a bit over $13 million before the 2018 season, a massive extension to Freeman, including “elite” money, might not be in the cards. The 25 year-old isn’t going to hold out, but he expects to get paid at the end of the season, or hopefully reach a lucrative agreement before the 2017 regular season begins, with less than 4 months left.
Freeman, the 103rd (4th round) overall pick in 2014, has done extremely well over the last two years, rushing for a combined 2135 yards, scoring 22 rushing touchdowns and doing quite well as a receiver too, catching 127 passes for 1040 yards and 5 touchdowns. He’s one of the best dual threats out of the backfield in the NFL, and played a huge part in the Falcons making the Super Bowl.
The Falcons do have Tevin Coleman playing behind Freeman on the depth chart who is a year younger, and they also took Brian Hill out of Wyoming in the 6th round of the draft, which could mean that they’re already thinking about contingency plans, cheaper ones, in the case things don’t work out with Freeman.