Devonta Freeman
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Even as most NFL teams drive down the value of the running back, the elite backs still mean as much to their team’s success as ever. The Atlanta Falcons must feel as if they have an elite one. The Falcons and Devonta Freeman recently agreed to terms on a five-year extension.

The NFL Network’s Mike Silver was the first to report the details:

Freeman’s rookie contract was to expire at the end of this season. He will still play this season under the final year of that original contract. Which will make him a Falcon for the next six seasons should he play out the extension.

Falcons Have an Out

As always with NFL contracts, there are two ways to look at it. The total, pick-your-jaw-up-off-the-floor numbers are often not realized. Such is the case with Freeman’s deal. Including this season (before the extension officially kicks in), Freeman’s under contract for roughly $45 million over the next six seasons. However, only about half is guaranteed. And of the guaranteed money, it’s packed in the first half of the deal. Plus a $15 million signing bonus.

Moreover, the past two seasons saw Freeman as an integral part of the Falcon’s offense. Sure, they have Julio Jones and Matt Ryan. But Freeman’s presence offers the Falcons not only balance in the running game, but a receiving threat out of the back field.

Devonta Freeman, Building on Success

Entering his fourth NFL season, the Florida St. product was a fourth-round pick of the Falcons in the 2014 NFL Draft.

Freeman’s rookie season was pretty forgettable. He ran 65 times for 248 yards. Although he did nab 30 receptions for 225 yards. His breakout second season saw him rush 265 times for 1,056 yards. He also added a whopping 73 catches for 578 yards.

Last season, Freeman proved he was no one-year wonder. He had 227 carries good for 1,079 yards. And 462 receiving yards on 53 catches. Additionally, Freeman matched his 2015 total of 11 rushing touchdowns.

The running back was selected a Pro Bowler the past two seasons.Freeman was named to the Associated Press’ Second Team All-Pro following the 2015 season, . Perhaps most importantly, Freeman has only missed one game in his three years as a pro.

Although the contract makes Freeman the NFL’s highest-paid running back, that title is unlikely to have much staying power. In Pittsburgh, Le’veon Bell continues to hold out in hopes of one-upping Freeman’s deal. Still, it’s a time for celebrating security in Atlanta.

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