FAL­CONS’ FREE­MAN SIGNS 5-YEAR DEAL

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - Grant Halver­son, Getty Im­ages — The As­so­ci­ated Press

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 in the fi­nal year of a rookie con­tract he signed as a fourth-round draft pick out of Florida State.

Steel­ers’ Bryant cleared.

Steel­ers wide re­ceiver Mar­tavis Bryant has been cleared to par­tic­i­pate in all pre­sea­son ac­tiv­i­ties, gen­eral man­ager Kevin Col­bert said.

Bryant missed the en­tire 2016 sea­son while serv­ing a sus­pen­sion for vi­o­lat­ing the league’s sub­stance abuse pol­icy. Bryant was con­di­tion­ally re­in­stated by the league in April, and he took part in or­ga­nized team ac­tiv­i­ties and mini­camp.

When Bryant ar­rived at Saint Vincent Col­lege for Pitts­burgh’s train­ing camp last month, he was in­formed by the league that he could not prac­tice or play un­til some con­di­tions of his re­in­state­ment were met.

Footnotes.

De­shaun Wat­son shined in his NFL pre­sea­son de­but, com­plet­ing 15-of-25 passes for 179 yards and run­ning for a score in the Tex­ans’ 27-17 loss to the Pan­thers. … The NFL will hire from 21 to 24 full-time of­fi­cials from among the cur­rent ros­ter of 124 of­fi­cials for this sea­son. … The Colts re­leased de­fen­sive tackle Kendall Lang­ford af­ter he failed a phys­i­cal. … Coach Marvin Lewis was back with the Ben­gals af­ter miss­ing a prac­tice to have a knee prob­lem checked. Lewis, who had scans on a swollen knee Tues­day, plans to coach the Ben­gals’ pre­sea­son opener Fri­day against Tampa Bay. … San Fran­cisco rookie line­backer Don­avin New­som was ex­pected to be re­leased from a hos­pi­tal a day af­ter be­ing taken off the prac­tice field by am­bu­lance with a con­cus­sion. New­son was hurt in prac­tice Tues­day. He suf­fered a con­cus­sion but didn’t sus­tain any cer­vi­cal spinal frac­tures. … Dal­las punter Chris Jones signed a four-year con­tract ex­ten­sion through 2021.

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