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Falcons Offseason News

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Holdout still not an option for Falcons' Devonta Freeman

2:38 PM ET
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    Vaughn McClureESPN Staff Writer

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman reiterated that he has no plans to hold out for a new contract and said business will take care of itself as he approaches the start of the 2017 season.

"It ain’t hard at all, because I’m good," Freeman said Tuesday about maintaining his focus amid his contract situation. "I play football because I love it. … I spoke to other guys about being in similar situations that I’m in right now. The main thing I can do right now is focus on my business, and my business is being the best Devonta Freeman I can be. And business will get taken care of outside of what I do and what I bring. I can just focus on me. When it happens, it happens. It’s going to be a surprise. I’m just patient."

Freeman is in the final year of his rookie deal and scheduled to make $1,797,000 in 2017 based on an escalator in the deal. The two-time Pro Bowler’s agent, Kristin Campbell, has had talks with the Falcons regarding a new contract and said during the Super Bowl that she wants Freeman to be paid like an "elite" back. Fifteen running backs are scheduled to make $4 million or more in 2017, led by Pittsburgh’s Le'Veon Bell with the franchise-tag figure of $12,083,000.


Devonta Freeman is focused on being the best player he can be, not his contract. Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Freeman is well aware of other players who have gone through contentious contract negotiations.

"I just always wanted to be that guy that never wanted to hold out and leave my guys out there working," Freeman said. "I understand it’s a business, 100 percent. But I know what I signed up for at the same time. It’s that business, you’ve just got to be patient and take care of yourself.

"(I) feel like you can’t walk around and act sad and have an attitude. That ain’t good for the team, especially when a lot of guys are looking up to you. You have to come in and be a pro on and off the field about it."

One of the players Freeman spoke with was All-Pro teammate Julio Jones, who signed a five-year, $71.25 million extension back on Aug. 31, 2015.

What advice did Jones offer to Freeman?

"A lot of stuff," Freeman said. "Personal."

Freeman expanded a little bit on their conversation.

"One great (piece of) advice that he did tell me was just make sure whatever I do, just to come in and work and compete and try to get better," Freeman said. "That’s what I call my business, my little own, personal organization; make sure I’m healthy, make sure I’m getting the proper rest, eating right and I’m paying attention to my weight. … If I can take care of that, everything else is going to take care of itself."

Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said he’s had productive talks with Freeman’s agent. Dimitroff also implied a new deal with Freeman could get done by training camp, based on his history with the timing of such negotiations with a player going into the final year of his contract.

Owner Arthur Blank also expressed a desire to see Freeman locked up for the long term.

"We love Devonta," Blank told ESPN during Super Bowl week. "We plan on him being a Falcon for a long period of time."

Freeman said he put on about five pounds of muscle already this offseason in preparation for the season. He also plans to run with a more "disrespectful" style toward opponents in order to run through tackles.

Freeman again downplayed any friction between himself and backup Tevin Coleman, insisting they are brothers. Freeman was asked about the organization having to decide which running back to invest in for the future. Coleman’s rookie deal runs through 2018.

"That’s way too far down the line for me," Freeman said of the Falcons choosing one back over the other. "I’m aware of everything that goes on, of course, but that’s not my business. I stay in my lane and get better."

Freeman said holding out isn’t even in his vocabulary.

"I’m going to play," Freeman said. "Like I said, business is going to get handled regardless of what, so I just come to work. I’m going to play regardless.

"I love football. I love to compete. It doesn’t matter about what I did last year, how many Pro Bowls I got, a thousand yards. I want to do it again and even get better, hopefully one day be a Hall of Famer. I want to leave a legacy. And holding out, that’s not going to leave a legacy, because if I hold out, I’m behind. I don’t want to be behind. I want to gain."

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Devonta Freeman plans to run with more disrespect for opposing tacklers

3:35 PM ET
  • mcclure_vaughn_m.jpg&w=160&h=160&scale=c
    Vaughn McClureESPN Staff Writer

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Two-time Pro Bowler Devonta Freeman always runs with a purpose. But the Atlanta Falcons running back wants opponents to feel him even more in 2017.

In talking about things he plans to do to enhance his game, Freeman gave opposing defenders a warning.

"Just little things like breaking arm tackles, running through," Freeman said. "I feel like that's what I can get better at helping the offensive linemen out because those guys, they bust their butts. They don't get to rotate. The only time they get a break is if we score a touchdown, then when the defense goes on the field. But if we have an 18-play drive, they're on the field all game. So helping those guys out by giving them a blow by breaking a big tackle.

"Last year, I left some runs out there. Also in the open field, continue to make guys miss, punishing guys. I just want to be real disrespectful this year when it comes to football."

Freeman finished ninth in the league in rushing last season with 1,079 yards on 227 carries with 11 rushing touchdowns. He had 350 yards after contact, which was 18th among runners with 160-plus carries. Miami's Jay Ajayi led the league with 656 rushing yards after contact, followed by Dallas' Ezekiel Elliott with 632.

In 2015, Freeman had 404 of his 1,056 rushing yards after contact. But the Falcons had a much better run last season in making it all the way to the Super Bowl.

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Kyle Shanahan reveals the one play he regrets most from the Falcons’ Super Bowl loss


Cameron DaSilva @camdasilva

FOX Sports  


It’s been nearly four months since the Atlanta Falcons blew the biggest lead in Super Bowl history, but fans probably won’t stop talking about the epic collapse for years. It was completely baffling and hard to believe, knowing just how dominant the Falcons had been for nearly three quarters of the game.

Coach Dan Quinn and quarterback Matt Ryan have spoken at length about the loss – Quinn said he’s “not over” it, while Ryan is trying to get past it by watching the game repeatedly – but former offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan has somewhat dodged the topic since joining the 49ers. However, on Friday, he was asked about any regrets he has nearly four months later.

Shanahan revealed the one play he’d like to take back.

“Yeah, there’s no doubt. The second-and-10 that we got sacked on,” Shanahan said on the Rich Eisen Show. “I wish I had dialed up something differently. And then the next play, we called an option to [Mohamed] Sanu, we got right back in field goal range, but we had a holding call on the play and it knocked us out some more, and an incompletion on the next one.”

The former Falcons offensive coordinator admits that the second-and-10 call in the fourth quarter wasn’t his only regret, but it is the play he keeps coming back to.

“It’s not just that. I go through every single play in the game, but when it comes down to it, the big one was the sack that we had on second-and-10.”

Up by eight points with under 5 minutes remaining and the ball inside the Patriots’ 30-yard line, all the Falcons needed to do was run the ball, use some clock and kick a field goal. It would have made it a two-possession game with very little time left, a task too tall for even Tom Brady.

Instead, Shanahan called a pass play on second down rather than milking the clock – a decision he’ll probably always regret. He said he thinks about the game “a lot” and there aren’t many days that go by where he doesn’t think about it, particularly this specific play call.

Shanahan gets to hit the reset button, so to speak, in San Francisco now as the team’s head coach, but that Super Bowl loss is something he’ll always carry with him.

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538 Sports: NFL teams don't value running backs anymore, and what it means for Devonta Freeman


by Matthew Chambers@FalcoholicMatt May 17, 2017, 10:00am EDT

The Falcoholic  


The Atlanta Falcons have reportedly been trying to sign their young running back Devonta Freeman, but there seems to have been little movement since he began clamoring for a new deal. Freeman has been a great player, but can the team meet his contract demands and keep other core players?

Benjamin Morris of 538 Sports looked at modern offenses and running back contracts, and determined that backs are finally getting paid what they are worth. It’s no surprise, but he says, “In the modern NFL, teams appear reluctant to commit resources to ball carriers like they used to.”

They even include this cool graphic that helps sum up how teams value backs compared to other positions.


The biggest change since the glory days of Jamal Anderson is guys like Jamal Anderson aren’t getting paid. What’s changed? Per this article, running the ball “sucks.” While all teams not run by Mike Mularkey have cut back on running the ball, they have seen the average yards per play skyrocket.

Obviously, running the ball is important if you want to kill the clock, set up play action, take the pressure off of your quarterback, or just generally win the Super Bowl when your defense is gassed. Statistically, the best use of an offensive play is to throw the ball.

Of course, running the football has ancillary benefits, such as burning time off the clock, avoiding turnovers, gaining positive yards more consistently, picking up shorter yardage a higher percentage of the time, keeping the defenses honest, and so on. (There may even be situations in which teams pass too often, such as with 2-point attempts.) That sounds like a lot of good uses for the run! But note that, when it comes to these things, the quality of your running back — at least by conventional measures like how many yards they gain — is of secondary importance.

This is because even a great rushing attack is still worse at picking up yards than even a mediocre passing attack. The all-pro running back may gain a lot of yards as his team funnels its offense through him, but many (or even most) of those yards are picked up in spots — like when a team is slightly up or down in the third quarter — where passing would have been better (or at the very least, where teams should be passing more often). Indeed, much like with having a good punter, there’s a danger that a great running back could hurt his team, if he entices them to run too often.

Morris argues that the more valuable back is involved in the passing game, noting the elite talent of Le’Veon Bell. Freeman is absolutely talented, and one of these versatile backs, but he’s clearly in a tier below Bell. And if we are looking heavily at the passing game, Freeman isn’t quite as explosive as Tevin Coleman.

What eventually happens with Freeman is still unknown. The Falcons are desperately short on cap space, and would likely need to make multiple moves to fit an extension for Freeman. He should come in well above Lamar Miller’s four-year, $26 million deal. That will be tough for the team to pay, and based on the trends, few teams will be willing to pay that either.


© 2017 Vox Media, Inc. All Rights Reserved Sports data © STATS 2016

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Falcons confident Devonta Freeman deal will get done


Jeremy Bergman  


For the last five months plus, Devonta Freeman and his party have made it well known that he deserves to be paid like the best backs in the league.

Ahead of the Super Bowl, NFL Network's Michael Silver reported that Freeman's agent claimed the back deserved "elite pay," a comment that, due to its timing and confidence, seemed to anticipate a contract struggle coming this offseason before the terms expire in 2018.

Fast forward past the Super Bowl collapse, one badly missed block and an offseason of little change in Atlanta, and Freeman still holds himself in that same regard. The tailback said this week 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."

With momentum building toward an impasse, in the same vein of DeAndre Hopkins with the Texans last season, Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff took to the airwaves to set the record straight regarding Freeman's contract situation.

"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."

As far as when Atlanta intends to pursue an extension or negotiation of some sort with Freeman's representative, Dimitroff said to check back when camp rolls around.

"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," the Falcons GM added. "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."

The dynamic pairing of Freeman and Tevin Coleman (under contract through 2018) is arguably the most cost-effective backfield in the NFL. With both backs still on their rookie deals, the Falcons paid the duo less than $2 million combined, per Spotrac, in exchange for historic production in '16 -- 2,482 yards from scrimmage, 24 touchdowns, 6.16 yards/touch -- en route to their first Super Bowl in nearly two decades.

Going forward, Freeman looks to be the workhorse back, garnering more carries, more targets and consequently more cash. But with Coleman in tow for at least two more years, will Atlanta be willing to reward Freeman with the elite contract he desires this offseason? Le'Veon Bell, a one-man wrecking crew in Pittsburgh, is earning $12.1 million on the tag; LeSean McCoy does it all in Buffalo and garners $8 million per year.

Does Freeman, a back-to-back 1,000-yard, 10-touchdown back who surrenders one of every three carries to another capable option, warrant that investment?

You heard Dimitroff: Check back in late July.

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Arthur Blank on NFL touchdown celebration, overtime rule changes


JuliaKate E. Culpepper The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

ajc | 8:53 a.m. Thursday, May 25, 2017Sports


Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank appeared on SiriusXM NFL Radio on Wednesday to discuss the new NFL rule changes.


On Tuesday, the NFL announced touchdown celebration rules would be relaxed in 2017, allowing players to use the football as a prop, celebrate on the ground and take part in group celebrations.


"Allowing (the players) to celebrate in appropriate ways after something great happens, a touchdown, field goal, winning a game, whatever the event may be is natural... Frankly, our players are going to be, in my opinion, very creative because they are creative. You know, they love to dance, they love music and they know how to do it, so I certainly expect to see a lot more of that and I'm looking forward to that next year personally,” Blank said.



The NFL also announced on Tuesday overtime would be reduced from 15 minutes to 10 minutes.


Blank said all parties— the NFL and team owners— agreed they don’t want the NFL to encourage ties.


“The reason it's gone from 15 to 10 minutes is not so much in games one, two, three or four, but when you get to... games 10, 12, 14, 15 et cetera, you know, players are tired, teams are tired. I mean they get out there and they play again great. They commit themselves and they get into the flow of the game, but those extra five minutes at the wrong time of the year can create more of an atmosphere or environment for injuries. So that was the effort behind it. It'll be tested, we'll see how it works and we'll go from there,” Blank said.

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