Before leaving his post as one of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s longtime sports columnist and recent podcaster, reporter Jeff Schultz dropped some seismic speculation about one of the city’s biggest athletes.
Hint: it’s an Atlanta Falcons player we think about a lot.
On his final episode of his We Never Played the Game podcast with WSB’s Zach Klein (which will continue with Klein), Schultz spoke on the Julio Jones contract saga, and with that, dropped a big hint as to where Jones’ mind might be in wanting to get the deal done now.
“I don’t know how much longer Julio wants to play,” Schultz said. “I think Julio’s got a little Calvin Johnson in him from the standpoint of, ‘I don’t want to do this forever...I want to take care of myself.’”
Schultz also surmises that both Jones will be present for the first day of training camp and that the team will get some sort of renegotiation done before the season starts.
“The Falcons had planned to renegotiate the contract next year. After three years into a five-year contract, they had planned to renegotiate the contract. This is only two years into a five-year contract.”
He thinks the team could move some 2019 base money into this season to get the contract dispute settled, and imagines a situation where the team does just enough this season to sweeten the deal now, and continue the efforts into next season to lock in something more concrete for the future.
He says Arthur Blank is well-aware with how important this season is, and how important it is to settle what needs to be settled with Jones to ensure the best situation possible for the team in 2018.
Obviously, the whole “Julio potentially retiring early” thing is something we’ve not considered out loud, and gives you a lot of concern going forward. Legendary Lions WR Calvin Johnson retired at the age of 30, an age Jones reaches next year. Johnson and Jones have been compared to each other up and down ever since the latter came into his own, and there’s no doubt Calvin’s decision is a consideration for Julio.
Though, he’s also spent a lot of time with Terrell Owens, who played well into his 30s, and still hypothetically wants to play today; two different ways two gold jacket receivers went about heading into their veteran years.
Jones is an avid businessman, having developed ventures in Atlanta and in his home of Alabama, where he’s revered as a college legend for his time with the Alabama Crimson Tide. He’s a star in two states, and has ample opportunity to continue his career in the Southeast as a sports legend.
With Jones having reached a Super Bowl and having essentially written most of his story for the Hall of Fame, it’s fair to wonder how much Julio has left, or wants, to accomplish as an active player.
This is not to say that Jones is confirmed as being close to retirement. Schultz gave no firm indication of this being his definitive plan; only speculation. But there’s now something on the books from a trusted voice in Atlanta media that says Jones might leave the game early. You’ve got to consider that going ahead as a distinct possibility.
But, again, this is all predicated on a viable hunch, not a hard report.
As far as we know, Jones is still going to be here for the next few seasons, maybe even more. Schultz’s insight does make you wonder, though, just how long the Jet wants to continue to fly as a Falcon, and if we’re going to be landing much sooner than expected.
Also, we wish Schultz all the best in his new venture with The Athletic, and have greatly enjoyed reading his AJC work over the years.