FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The kid from the Miami projects just got paid.
Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman knew he would be rewarded for his hard work sometime down the line. That day came Wednesday when he agreed to a five-year, $41.25 million contract extension that includes $22 million guaranteed. His agent, Kristin Campbell, negotiated the deal.
In terms of average per year, Freeman's $8.25 million exceeds any running back with a multiyear deal. Buffalo's LeSean McCoy is second at $8.010 million and Tampa Bay's Doug Martin is third at $7.15 million. Pittsburgh's Le'Veon Bell will make $12.12 million this year under the one-year franchise tag.
No matter how you dissect the numbers or compare them to other running back contracts of years past, securing such a deal means everything for a kid who came from nothing. Freeman made that clear with a tweet after the contract was announced:
A young boy from the bottom. You put that work in & stay humble, you'll be rewarded. All glory to GOD🙏🏾 Now we just gotta go get the trophy!— Devonta Freeman (@devontafreeman) August 9, 2017
Off the field, Freeman plans to take care of his family, including intentions to send all four of his sisters to college and get his mother to move up to Atlanta permanently. On the field, his new earnings won't make him any less hungry to succeed.
Freeman is not content with being a two-time Pro Bowler or putting together consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons. He wants much more. He made that clear during an interview with ESPN last month.
"I want to dominate the game," Freeman said. "It's another level I can go to. It's always another level I can go to. I ain't even in my prime. I'm not.
"When I study film and watch myself, I'm like, 'I could have broken that tackle. This could have been an 80-yard run instead of a 15-yard run. I could have blocked this guy better. So I feel like there's always another level I can go to. There's no limit. I grow every single day."
Freeman's growth has been on display at the start of training camp. He reported in great shape, looks quicker with his cuts, and looks faster once he breaks into the clear. His hands remain a key asset as a receiver in the passing game. And Freeman has taken the time to improve his blocking after a costly missed block in Atlanta's Super Bowl loss led to a sack and a fumble by QB Matt Ryan.
"He’s had a terrific camp," coach Dan Quinn said. "He’s such a good teammate that he’s always saying, ‘What else can I do?’ The connection he has not just with the running backs, but with the offensive line and with the other guys, is strong. The receiving for him and [fellow running back] Tevin Coleman has taken an even bigger step up this training camp and this offseason. It was a part of their game they both wanted to improve upon, and it’s coming through."
The next step for Freeman is helping guide the Falcons to a Super Bowl title, something he nearly tasted last season. But he walked away with an empty feeling.
"What it's going to take to get back to the Super Bowl is, No. 1, everybody has to trust one another," Freeman said. "No. 2 is hard work -- hard work and dedication. And then you have to win one game at a time. You don't try to go out there and win the Super Bowl in Game 1. You win a game, you win the division, you win each game in the playoffs one game at a time, and then you get to the Super Bowl.
"But every game is my Super Bowl. If everybody approaches it like that, we'll definitely be back."