I'd love to be able to report that the Falcons and Julio Jones have made genuine progress on a new long-term deal. There are plenty of people out there who question the wisdom of throwing huge money at a wide receiver, but for me, locking up one of the league's most dynamic players is just smart business, particularly when you have a new coaching staff that's receptive to freeing up long-term cap space by making cuts elsewhere.
For all that, things are quiet on the contract front with Jones, as Vaughn McClure reported on Monday. I'm one who generally cautions fellow fans not to panic over negotiations, because as was the case with Vic Beasley, they usually get done even if they take a while. We are now nearly at the midway point of July, however, and with just about a month-and-a-half until the season kicks off, it's time to gently jangle those nerves.
For the optimists in the group, you c an view the lack of any breakdown in talks and/or loud demands from Jones' camp as a good sign. McClure notes that it wouldn't be surprising to see the two sides agree on a deal as soon as the start of training camp, and they have nearly three full weeks to go until then.
On the other hand, there are plenty of reasons to worry. It was expected that Demaryius Thomas or Dez Bryant might sign a deal before Jones, helping to set his market, but the former is stuck in the contract negotiations bog and the latter has threatened a holdout. The Falcons will likely have to go first if they want to lock up Jones, and that lack of a model contract is almost certainly slowing things down. When you pair that with Jones' freak but significant injury and the team's new direction under Dan Quinn, it's hard not to be a little concerned that negotiations won't wrap up by the time the season rolls around, which leaves both sides with a tight window ahead of March free agency.
The odds are still against Julio ever hitting free agency, because players of his caliber rarely do, and the Falcons' offense still ideally runs through him. The danger here is less that Julio walks—though an injury this year if there is no deal complicates matters—than that the hesitation may cost the Falcons money and a lot of time in the early months of 2016, when the focus should be on scouting externally.
In other words, let's hope this gets done soon.