Over the last two seasons, Devonta Freeman has proven to be one of the best all-around running backs in the NFL.
The 25-year-old Atlanta Falcons standout rushed for 1,061 yards and caught 73 passes for 578 receiving yards with 14 total touchdowns in 2015 over 15 games before rushing for 1,079 yards and recording 54 receptions for 462 yards with 13 total scores last season over 16 games played.
While his role in the passing game slightly declined, his yards-per-carry mark drastically improved from 4.0 to 4.8 yards per rush from 2015 to 2016, which is a clear indication that he found his stride working in tandem with Tevin Coleman, who split carries with him in the NFC’s most prolific offense last year.
Since his contract will be up after the upcoming season, this offseason has been a busy one when it comes to financial talks between Freeman and the Falcons.
In recent days, the tailback said 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.”
He added, "Me and my team, we already said what we expected and wanted so there is no need for me to sit around here saying, 'Why my contract not done?' 'Why is this, and why is that?' I don't have to do that. I don't have those problems because realistically I am under contract already. I have to play my fourth season, so it's no big deal.”
As you can imagine, Falcons general manager Thomas Demitroff has his hands full, but he made it very clear that he wants Freeman in town as long as possible.
"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.”
The GM also put a timetable on when talks between the two sides will begin to heat up.
"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," Demitroff said. "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."
En route to the Super Bowl last season, the Falcons received 2,482 yards from scrimmage with 24 touchdowns on 6.16 yards per touch from the dynamic duo of Freeman and Coleman while paying them under $2 million combined in salary.
After this upcoming season, they’ll have to shell out a lot of cash if they expect the tandem to continue brutalizing opposing defenses for years and years to come.
In today's pass-happy NFL, it remains to be seen what approach the organization will take.
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