“I want to be the best,” Freeman told ESPN.com. “I want to be elite paid. Whatever that is, that’s where I want to be — straight up.”
He added that he will not hold out, given that Atlanta is already well aware of his wishes.
“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.”
The hullabaloo about Freeman’s next deal was first given life by NFL Network’s Michael Silver, who spoke with both Freeman’s agent, Kristin Campbell, and Freeman in the week leading up to the Super Bowl. At the time, Campbell said, “It’s time for the Falcons to pay him like the elite back he is,” and added, “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.”
The news and reaffirmation by Freeman to not hold out is obviously welcome for Atlanta, though the Falcons hold most of the leverage in this staredown-to-be. Freeman is wonderfully affordable at $1.838 million this year and there are dozens of tools in Dimitroff’s belt for 2018 to keep costs reasonable.
According to contract site Spotrac, the top running back salaries in the NFL after Le’Veon Bell‘s franchise tag number of $12,120,000 are Jonathan Stewart and LeSean McCoy‘s $8 million per year. Doug Martin‘s latest deal averages $7,150,000 per year while Lamar Miller is getting $6,500,000 on average per year. McCoy leads all non-rookie running backs in money guaranteed at signing with $18,250,000 — or nearly half the deal.
So what does this mean for a player that has scored 11 touchdowns and amassed more than 1,000 yards in each of the last two seasons? He’ll need to do it at least once more to achieve his goals.
His push to be a more violent running back may not be a coincidence.