Falcons' Devonta Freeman not holding out but says he wants to be 'elite paid'

Over the past two seasons, Falcons running back Devonta Freeman has emerged as one of the more consistent and underrated running backs in the NFL. And now he wants to be paid accordingly. 

Actually the contract demands have been there since the week of the Super Bowl (nice timing), when Freeman's agent said the running back should be paid in "elite" fashion. Freeman himself echoed that sentiment in comments to ESPN's Josina Anderson recently, saying that he believes the time has come for him to be paid. 

"I want to be the best. I want to be elite paid," Freeman said. "Whatever that is, that's where I want to be -- straight up."

Freeman, drafted in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL Draft out of Florida State, is entering the last year of his rookie contract. He's set to make $1.797 million in base salary this year, which would actually be more than he made in base salary for the first three years combined. 

And Freeman appears to understand how this is going to play out and isn't going to try and hold out for the final year of his deal.

"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," Freeman said. "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 Falcons don't disagree with the idea of paying Freeman, with GM Thomas Dimitroff saying before the Super Bowl that the team wants to keep the running back around.

"Devonta obviously is a very good football player," Dimitroff said, per ESPN.com. "We want him to be here with us, and we are going to address that in the offseason, which is what we should. I think we're in a really good spot with a number of players on this team that we're going to look to continue to re-up here. Devonta's one we're going to have that discussion with. We're confident that we're going to have him here for years to come."

Freeman's got back-to-back seasons of over 1,000 rushing yards and also tallied 11 touchdowns in each of those years. The one catch here is that he's been playing in Kyle Shanahan's running back-friendly offense the last two years, so the team will definitely want to see how he performs in Steve Sarkisian's offense in 2017. 

There's no reason to think that Freeman sees a huge dropoff in production as a result of the change, but there are concerning factors, including the presence/success of Tevin Coleman, a history of paying running backs and the changeover in coordinators. Letting Freeman perform in 2017 and then utilizing the franchise tag to establish the baseline for a contract makes more sense than paying him right now. 

Freeman understands that and he sounds like he's ready to prove he deserves the contract he's seeking.

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Will Brinson joined CBS Sports in 2010 and enters his seventh season covering the NFL for CBS. He previously wrote for FanHouse along with myriad other Internet sites. A North Carolina native who lives... Full Bio

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