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Of Julio Jones, contracts, and The Brotherhood

Just how foolproof is the team’s culture in a moment like this?

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Atlanta Falcons Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

What happens when The Brotherhood fractures? What happens when it’s not an all-consuming mantra?

It’s the one thing no one has wanted to think about ever since Dan Quinn and his fine frenzy of fast and physical sportsmanship and locker room nirvana rolled into town, and Falcons fans got a vision of just how great the future of the franchise could look like under DQ’s watch.

The Brotherhood was put in place to unite the team, and while it can seem over-the-top at times, the level of buy-in from this roster has been remarkable to see.

It’s that thing that adds a note of pride to your voice as you describe to your Bills and Colts fan friends how special the team is, and how selfless, and how explosive on both sides of the ball, and did you see the thing with the ping pong tables? And the Navy SEAL workouts? And, oh man, what about the grind of going out and playing for the man next to you and giving it everything you’ve got, and all that.

Maybe you don’t buy into it at quite that level, but still appreciate that the Brotherhood has yielded winning ways where none existed in the shaky couple of years before Mike Smith left and Dan Quinn arrived. Yet the bubbling contract situation with Julio Jones could wind up taking its toll on the Brotherhood talk.

A moment in time

Reports have surfaced that the Falcons are not happy, Bob, Not, Happy, with their star wide receiver, who’s holding out from summer activities as he’s decided to take the business-minded road in a relatively-unprecedented path of asking for a raise in the middle of a contract.

Many folks ‘round these parts have sided with the team through the ordeal, feeling that it’s not fair for a player like Jones to just demand more money, even though he’s coming in well behind the competition with his per annual salary. They decry Jones for being selfish, for not honoring the terms of his deal, for not, ahem, being a good member of the Brotherhood.

The team’s main frustrations seem to split down the middle: one one end, they don’t want to internally set a standard of renegotiating contracts in medias res of the existing one. That’s understandable: when you strike a deal, you do so in good faith that it’ll satiate the party on the receiving end of that extension until roughly a year away from getting the next extension done. That’s the way most teams do business.

Jones is pushing against that norm, and while he’s owed the money he’d get, you get the team’s reluctance to walk ahead without some push back. Football is a business, and you have to expect both parties to do what’s best for their interests; neither Jones nor the team are exempt from watching their own backs, and neither should expect a first conversation to settle the request. These things take time.

But, it’s the other side of their frustration that’s a bit wonky. They reportedly feel that Jones is muddying the waters of the Brotherhood mentality a bit by holding out for a new deal. I’m sorry, but I can’t support that.

The solidity of The Brotherhood

If the Julio contract saga has taught us anything, it’s that for Brotherhood to be a lasting principle, the team is going to have to play its part in fostering that with their actions, particularly in a case like this. It can’t just be on the players to put the work in. The coaches have to, too. And so do the front office members. And the ownership. If we’re all family in this big Brotherhood boat, we can’t get let bad blood begin to boil when a member of the group tries to take care of his own interests.

When it came into place, the Brotherhood was the envy of the league. No doubt; if you’re not Bill Belichick and scoff at such things, you’re going to try and at least take a little of what the Falcons have done and apply it to your own franchise. It’s not an unfamiliar concept, but to implement selfless, loving corporate culture into the locker room and build up a familial atmosphere akin to what you might find in college is still mighty effective if done well. It’s a glorious extension of Pete Carroll’s work that helped get Seattle a Super Bowl win alongside a generational defense, even if ol’ Pete has since wandered off the reservation.

Here’s my perspective: If a player can’t be comfortable to make business decisions in a Brotherhood without fear of internal retribution from the decision makers, then watch how quickly the Brotherhood comes crashing down to the ground, and the Falcons go back to being like every other team in the league.

For those who feel like Jones is being unfair, continue to try to find his perspective in this. He’s about to turn 30; he’s just seen his team spend a first-round pick on a wide receiver; he’s seen the organization throw out his pal Roddy White with the bathwater, and might see the same happen with his other pal, Mohamed Sanu. He’s also spending time with Terrell Owens, who while prolific, was on the receiving end of franchise malfeasance when it came to proper compensation. Julio’s up against a wall here. Davante Adams is making more money than him right now, and his guaranteed money essentially runs out after the 2018 season. Ask yourself, if you saw the opportunity to ensure more financial security for yourself, would you take it?

The team has a lot of tough roster decisions to make in the years ahead, and make no mistake, the Julio contract situation will set the bar for how all those decisions go. If they can make Julio happy and make him feel welcome again, it’s going to make this next few years go a lot easier, even if some other contract situations get a little thornier. The outlook from both sides has been publicly sunny, however, and we’re hopeful this concern is for naught and the deal gets done.

If they can’t, and the bad blood flows boils, don’t be surprised if not even Quinn and his enthusiasm can bridge the gulf that arises.