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Falcons Still Have Not Exercised Fifth-Year Option on Julio Jones

The Atlanta Falcons have until May 3rd to execute the fifth-year option for Julio Jones, meaning Julio may not be a Falcon in 2015.

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Bob Levey

Thanks to moving the draft back until nearly November, April is a pretty slow time of the year. Even something Donovan McNabb did was newsworthy. There has been another wave of fifth-year options exercised for players from the 2011 draft. Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green was locked down for his fifth year week ago. Yesterday the Cowboys exercised Tyron Smith's fifth year while the Texans locked up J.J. Watt for another year.

As background, the new collective bargaining agreement between the NFL owners and players changed the way rookies get paid. That change basically equated to getting paid significantly less. Rookie contracts for the top players selected in the draft are four-year deals, with the team's option to pick up a sizable fifth-year option.

As ESPN's Vaughn McClure pointed out, Julio Jones is still considered a free agent in 2015.

Jones was the sixth-overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft. In terms of players drafted in the top 10, the value of the fifth-year option is the equivalent to the transition tag for their respective positions. In Jones' case, that means $10.176 million in '15.... Of course, Jones is coming off a season-ending foot injury that required surgery, and some wonder if he will return to his normal form.

As far as Julio's injury is concerned, I believe it is not one expected to be serious or may zap his effectiveness or explosiveness. That could always change, but I think the bigger concern is Julio's injury history in general. He has missed multiple games in two of his three seasons.

Jones is easily one of the most talented wide receivers in the league but he needs to prove that talent on the field. The Falcons are certainly likely to pick up Julio's fifth-year option, based on his potential and the cost of the trade, but I can't help but to wonder if the Falcons are concerned Julio finishes with another incomplete season.

Would you spend the projected $10+ million for Julio in 2015, knowing the Falcons also have the option to franchise Julio in 2016 if he stays healthy and productive? Or would the Falcons be better off trying to get Julio to sign a long-term deal this offseason and take on the risk of more potential injuries to flatten out his potential cap figures?