The Falcons and Julio Jones contract extension saga has been the story of the offseason, and now we have a prognostication and some context for the ordeal from someone with a close ear to the ground.
Falcons beat writer D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution spoke with Charlotte’s ESPN 730AM The Game and gave his take on where the thinks this situation will wind up.
“Yes, I do [expect a deal to get done],” Ledbetter said on the show. “I think he’ll be in camp on time, and they’ll work their differences out. Nothing major, but it’s major enough to keep him away from camp. The markets for wide receivers went up over the offseason, and [it] looks like Julio wants an adjustment to his contract.”
Ledbetter paints a less-rosy picture for the relationship between Jones and the team at the moment of this contract conversation.
“It’s in a bad place right now,” Ledbetter added. “Coach was expecting him in here. He told us that at the owners meeting when I talked to him down there in Orlando, and then, a few weeks later, Julio informed that he’s not going to be here.”
He also alludes to the T.O. element to this holdout as being something that might drive a rift between Jones and the Falcons.
“The fact that he’s running around with Terrell Owens has the front office uneasy. The fact that he’s held out and is kind of bucking the whole Brotherhood thing has them a little bit uneasy, too. So, they’ll have to mend some fences, no question about it, once he returns.”
Though, Ledbetter says Jones “still means the world to this team,” and that the drafting of Calvin Ridley was not done to be a replacement for Jones down the road. He notes that Ridley is firmly supposed to replace what Taylor Gabriel brought to the offense.
To hear all at once that D-Led expects this to get resolved before camp and that the team and Julio aren’t in a great place right now is, admittedly, a lot to take in.
On one side, level minds have felt for some time that the Falcons would get this settled before things got dire with Julio, and that they understand he’s worthy of this kind of raise.
But, this might also be true: the Falcons might resent this a bit in terms of having to reopen how they negotiate extensions, and might be worried this will set a bad precedent for future contracts.
Thomas Dimitroff hinted to as much in an interview with Andrew Brandt last month, where he cited Jones specifically.
“We had talked about how we were going to approach it. We normally have not done guys, Julio included, until that last year. We’re not big on doing the three years, two years, normally, we’ve been a year out, and it’s been that way with our main guys, so it sends a message to even guys who are more midline players who are looking for a contract, like, look, if Matt and Julio, and a couple of other guys, even Roddy White during those times, have done it this way, it sets a tone of consistency. And, I think, that’s been good for us.”
So, between Jones wanting to get an exemption for typical team policy, and with him missing camp, hanging out with T.O. and not adhering minute-by-minute to the “Brotherhood” mentality, Quinn and Dimitroff sound be a bit irked with the Jet at the moment, though they won’t show that hand all the way publicly.
To say the relationship isn’t great now doesn’t mean it won’t be once Jones starts putting in the work at training camp, as Ledbetter speculates he will. If they’re able to work out a contract then, this will likely be water under the bridge by the season.
If something happens and the team holds their ground, and Julio calls their bluff, make no mistake: this has a high probability of carrying over into training camp. If it does, Jones will be far from the first player in NFL history to hold out when camp starts, but it will be less than ideal for a Falcons team that’s trying to get its offense back to elite status.
A player missing June reps is something you can deal with. We saw what happened last season when Julio missed key training camp reps.
But, we’re dealing with a host of professionals who, even at a tiff, will still have the wherewithal to deal with this in a proper way and find an agreement that benefits all parties. D-Led seems to think it’ll get done, so let’s hope that foresight follows through before this holdout begins to really manifest some tough results.