Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman has leaped LeSean McCoy in annual running back pay. NFL Network's Michael Silver reported Tuesday that Freeman's new five-year contract extension with the Falcons is worth $41.25 million and will average $8.25 million over the life of the pact.
While Freeman earned his big payday, his contract likely does nothing to affect Le'Veon Bell's discussions.
Freeman's new $8.25 million per-year average on the extension is higher than McCoy's $8 million, but neither comes close to Bell's $12.1 million franchise tag, which the Pittsburgh Steelers' running back has yet to sign. Bell and the Steelers can't discuss a multi-year contract until after the season.
NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported the Steelers offered Bell more than $12 million per year before the July 17 deadline to get a long-term deal done. Already having dismissed a contract worth about $4 million more annually than Freeman's new deal, Bell likely isn't to be moved by Wednesday's news.
According to NFL Network analyst Ike Taylor, a former teammate of Bell, the running back wants to be paid like a No. 1 running back *and* a number No. 2 receiver. Freeman's deal comes nowhere near that number.
Not taking anything away from Freeman -- who got a nice payday -- but his new deal emphasizes how much the running back position has been devalued. As Jason Fitzgerald at OverTheCap.com points out, LaDainian Tomlinson signed for $8 million per year in 2004. Thirteen years later, contracts for the position have mostly remained flat or sank, while the salary cap skyrocketed.
Kudos to Freeman's team for finding him financial security, but if the running back market is to be reset, it's on the shoulders -- and legs -- of Bell and Johnson.