-- The Atlanta Falcons and two-time Pro Bowl running back Devonta Freeman have agreed on a five-year contract extension, the team announced Wednesday.
The deal is worth $41.25 million and includes a $15 million signing bonus, agent Kristin Campbell told ESPN; $22 million is guaranteed.
Freeman's extension runs through 2022.
In terms of average per year, Freeman's $8.25 million average would exceed any current running back with a multiyear deal. Buffalo's LeSean McCoy would be second at $8.010 million, followed by Tampa Bay's Doug Martin at $7.15 million. Pittsburgh's Le'Veon Bell with make $12.12 million this year under the one-year franchise tag.
Freeman, a 2014 fourth-round draft pick out of Florida State, was moving into the final year of his rookie contract and was scheduled to make almost $1.8 million this season. General manager Thomas Dimitroff said getting a deal done with Freeman was "100 percent'' the focus this week heading into training camp.
"We are very pleased that we were able to get this extension done," ?Dimitroff said. "Devonta embodies everything we are looking for in a Falcon, and we are proud that he'll be able to spend his career here in Atlanta."
Freeman emerged as a key figure in the Falcons' high-octane offense. He amassed 3,175 yards from scrimmage and 27 touchdowns over the past two seasons. Freeman became the first Falcon to rush for 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons since Michael Turner accomplished the feat in 2010-11.
Talk of a new contract for Freeman initially surfaced before the Super Bowl, when Campbell told NFL Network she wanted to see Freeman paid like an elite running back. Freeman maintained patience throughout the process and didn't hold out of any offseason activities.
"I just want to take it to that next level," Freeman told ESPN regarding his goals for 2017. "How can I get to that next level? What do I need to do to get to that next level? You know what I mean? I'm going to study film harder. I'm going to work harder. I'm going to prepare better. I'm going to eat cleaner, just to get to that next level. I need to be on that next level. That's with anything, especially when it comes to football."
With Freeman now locked up for years, the question is whether the Falcons can maintain arguably the best running back combo in the league with Freeman and Tevin Coleman, a 2015 third-round pick. Coleman has two years and $1.471 million left on his rookie deal.
"That's not really my decision,'' Coleman said of remaining Freeman's tag-team partner beyond 2018. "I'm just here to play football, to be the best football player I can be. Of course I want to be here with him. But we just have to keep working.''
Freeman goes into the 2017 season motivated to improve on last year's strong showing, which ended with the bitter taste of a 34-28 overtime Super Bowl loss to the New England Patriots, in which the Falcons blew a 28-3 lead.