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Julio Jones contract breakdown, salary cap implications, and Falcons future

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Julio Jones will, if all goes well, be a Falcon until at least 2020. Here's look at his contract numbers.

Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

We all know Julio Jones signed a massive contract extension just before Saturday night's Falcons game against the Dolphins. Now we know how that contract breaks down.

In essence, the Falcons have taken advantage of their cap space this year to hand Julio a sizable bonus, as we all anticipated they would. The salaries then rise the next two years before fluctuating a bit toward the end of the contract, but the bottom line is that this is a big contract in line with what other elite receivers around the NFL have received.

Cap Implications

The salary cap implications are varied. The Falcons obviously have a lot of money tied up in Matt Ryan and Julio now, and they're not going to be able to throw a ton of big money extensions and/or contracts at other players without the situation getting a bit tight. That said, the cap is expected to keep rising over the next few seasons at a decent clip, which means as long as the Falcons manage their money intelligently, they should have no problem working in extensions for key players like Desmond Trufant, Jake Matthews, and perhaps Ra'Shede Hageman. The bigger issue is going to be the one that has dogged the Falcons for years now, which is how they manage to draft and acquire cheaper players to fill out the roster, give them needed depth, and navigate a cap landscape where the big money is going to a handful of players.

We already know the team should have a lot of cap space heading into 2016, making that big figure manageable for next year. The 2019 $14.9 million may look very reasonable by that time, depending on what happens with the cap and the next wave of big receiver contracts for players like Odell Beckham Jr., Jordan Matthews, and so on, but right now it looks like a potentially big hit for the team, with a cap scenario that's impossible to forecast out that far.

Julio's Fortunes

The next question, of course, is Julio's Falcons future, his production, and whether he'll live up to this contract. That question is impossible to answer with 100% confidence, but here's what we do know.

Julio was largely healthy a year ago, but he's a player who may always have nicks and bruises that limit him a game or two every year. In the games he did play, Julio was still obviously one of the most impactful wide receivers in football, a man who draws double coverage, opens opportunities for others, and is a nightmare to cover every play. His touchdown numbers have been unusually low for a top-flight receiver, but I think there will be a course correction this year with Roddy White likely getting fewer red zone targets, and Kyle Shanahan is going to make sure Julio is fed. There's little question in my mind that injury is the only thing that will slow him down, and while we'll always be nervous about that surgically-repaired foot, there were no signs that it was going to linger permanently in 2014.

So there's the rub: If Julio gets hurt, this deal can be escaped, but it'll have unfortunate long-term cap implications and will lead to a sour taste in the mouths of Falcons fans. If he's healthy, I imagine he'll be worth every dollar, if not more.

Julio Jones isn't guaranteed to be a Falcon for life, as Arthur Blank has proclaimed, but he'll be here a long time if he's healthy and productive. May he find his way into the team and NFL record books in the years to come.

Your thoughts on this contract?