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Edgerrin James: Paying up for Devonta Freeman a 'safe bet' for Falcons

Former four-time Pro Bowl running back Edgerrin James appreciates when fellow Floridian Devonta Freeman reaches out for advice.

When the conversation turns to Freeman securing his next contract with the Atlanta Falcons, James said the message is simple.

"At the end of the day, usually that stuff takes care of itself," James told ESPN. "He's got good people, a good team around him. He's got his agent. And you don't let it distract you from being a football player. If he does his part as a football player, everything else will take care of itself."

Freeman, a 2014 fourth-round draft pick from Florida State, is expected to be rewarded with a new long-term contract before the start of the season, perhaps even before or during training camp. The Falcons report for camp Wednesday and are scheduled to hold their first practice Thursday morning.

The two-time Pro Bowl running back, who has accumulated 3,175 yards from scrimmage and 27 touchdowns over the past two seasons, is to make $1.8 million in this, the final year of his rookie contract. Freeman has remained patient with the process, allowing agent Kristin Campbell to handle the business side.

James, who was a fourth overall pick of the Indianapolis Colts in 1999 out of Miami, had a 21-day holdout before signing a seven-year, $49 million contract. Despite his circumstances back then, James certainly wouldn't recommend Freeman taking such a stance in these contract talks -- particularly since both sides appear to be on the same page regarding getting the deal done.

"It's not even a risk for the team; it's one of those safe bets," James said of the Falcons paying Freeman. "Hopefully they lock him in and take good care of him there in Atlanta. They've built a situation where they can make a nice run year in and year out with the quarterback [Matt Ryan] and [Freeman] as the running back. He's only going to get better and better.

"For him, it's just lock in. Keep training and train harder. Do everything you've got to do to kind of eliminate the talk of your deal, because that's going to work itself out. He's too good of a player for them not to come and take good care of him. He's a great player. And he's young. That's the thing about him: He's a winner. Anytime you've got a player on his level that's a winner, it's good for the organization."

James, who will turn 39 on Aug. 1, , played 11 NFL seasons and had seven 1,000-yard rushing seasons. After his time with the Colts, he signed a four-year, $30 million contract with the Cardinals.

James sees Freeman playing many NFL seasons, enjoying much more success, and, of course, getting paid well in the process.

"I've been watching him since he was in high school, and ever since he was in high school he's been a football player, bottom line," James said. "That's the thing you're looking for. He's football player who can do it all."