Devonta Freeman’s goal is to win a Super Bowl. But right after that, he wants to get paid.
The Falcons running back told Mike Silver of the NFL Network that he’s hoping for a lucrative contract extension this offseason, in what will be interpreted by some as the first rocking of the boat within Atlanta’s high-powered offense.
“Patience and timing are everything,” Freeman said. “I’ve got a family to feed, and I don’t want to struggle anymore. Now, I can see it, feel it, taste it. But I’ve got to finish strong and not think about the money this week — we’ve got too much to play for.
“After that, well, I feel like I’ve done my part. Now, hopefully, I’ll get rewarded.”
Freeman is right about a few things, the first being he’s seriously underpaid. In the third year of a four-year rookie deal which will pay him $2.7 million total, the former fourth-round pick set to make $690,000 next year. And for a guy with 27 touchdowns the last two seasons in a job-sharing role, he knows the wear and tear on an every down running back means his window for cashing in is a short one, and that creates a source of stress.
“Of course it is,” he said, “because when you play running back, you look at your position, you look at history, and then you compare it with how you feel every week — it’s such a brutal position. We take so many hits. When you get the opportunity to get some money, you want to put yourself in position to max out, to get as much as you can, because the lifespan of a running back is not long.”
The flip side is that he’s in essence a part-time player. He splits time with Tevin Coleman in the Falcons backfield, and got fewer touches this year than last year. That could create some potential for drama, and his agent offered some quotes that will be considered inflammatory, such as: “It’s time for the Falcons to pay him like the elite back he is.”
Falcons General Manager Thomas Dimitroff said he was receptive to discussing this with Freeman this offseason, acknowledging the value he creates for their offense (which will be losing coordinator Kyle Shanahan to the 49ers next week).
The balancing act for them is keeping as many of their contributors as possible, while recognizing that having multiple cheap parts is essential when you have superstar contracts on the books. And while many will questions Freeman’s timing, he’s not wrong about the multiple forces which could diminish his market value, or the reality that players have to get it while they can.