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Freeman becomes top-paid RB

The Associated PressATLANTA (AP) — On the eve of their first preseason game, the Atlanta Falcons addressed their biggest issue coming into training camp.

Devonta Freeman has a new contract.

The defending NFC champions agreed to terms Wednesday on a five-year, $41.25 million extension with Freeman, making him the highest-paid running back in the league in terms of the overall package. It includes a $15 million signing bonus and $22 million in guaranteed money.

Buffalo’s LeSean McCoy had been the highest-paid back with a five-year, $40 million deal signed in 2015. Pittsburgh’s Le’veon Bell’s rejected an even bigger deal and will play for $12.12 million franchise tag this season.

During his three seasons with the Falcons, Freeman has racked up 2,383 rushing yards, including back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons in 2015 and 2016. His 3,175 total yards over the past two seasons ranks second in the NFL, behind teammate Julio Jones.

Freeman will make just under $1.8 million is in the final year of a rookie deal he signed as a fourth-round draft pick out of Florida State. His agent, Kristin Campbell, caused a stir by first raising the prospect of a lucrative extension the week of the Super Bowl, in which the Falcons squandered a 28-3 lead and lost in overtime to the New England Patriots.

But negotiations never got contentious, even as talks dragged into training camp.

Freeman made it clear that holding out was not an option, saying he didn’t want to be a distraction.

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