MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- The Atlanta Falcons agreed to terms on a five-year contract extension with Pro Bowl running back Devonta Freeman on Wednesday, a day before the team's first preseason game against the Miami Dolphins.
At Miami's Hard Rock Stadium prior to kickoff, general manager Thomas Dimitroff explained why he and the organization were so focused on signing the 25-year-old running back.
"You know, he is just such a wild competitor," Dimitroff said. "He fits in with what we're looking for, of course. He runs hard, he catches hard, he works very hard in the offseason. For us, we wanted to reward him with the right contract, we believe in him a great deal. He's such a significant part of this offense. The way that he approached this offseason, not pulling back and running hard, to me, was just typical of what he is. To be able to reward him with a contract, we're so excited. … It's great to have him locked up."
Freeman is coming off of the best season of his career. He started all 16 games for Atlanta in 2016, gaining 1,541 total yards from scrimmage and 13 touchdowns. Pro Football Focus assigned Freeman a grade of 83.3 after last season, which was the eighth-highest among NFL running backs.
Getting this deal done prior to Freeman entering the final year of his current contract is a continuation of the strategy the Falcons have employed with some of their other core players. Within the last year, right tackle Ryan Schraeder agreed to a five-year extension, while cornerbacks Robert Alford and Desmond Trufant signed four- and five-year deals, respectively.
"We're really focused on those guys that embody what we are," Dimitroff said. "That brotherhood, the drive, the passion, the grit, all of those guys represent that. Along with – when we look at our guys like Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Desmond Trufant, Alex Mack – all of our top guys, who we consider pillar guys – there are many more pillar guys on this team – they're being paid and they're being rewarded. We feel very comfortable that those are the type of guys that we have that are representing us. We're rewarding them."
The Falcons and Dolphins kick off at 7 p.m. ET. Atlanta hits the road again for the second preseason game, a 4 p.m. ET tilt against the Steelers in Pittsburgh. The Falcons' first home game – their first game in Mercedes-Benz Stadium – is Saturday, Aug. 26, against the Arizona Cardinals.