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Report: Falcons not giving Julio Jones a pay bump, but hope he reports to training camp regardless

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If the league’s best wide receiver returns to the team, he will be doing it under his current contract.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

We have spent the offseason wondering how the Atlanta Falcons will make Julio Jones happy. He’s arguably the league’s best wide receiver, and unquestionably in the top two in the NFL. The Falcons can’t pretend he’s just a “good” player and plan without him, but they’re now in a position where they me heading into training camp with #11 as a no-show.

The same assumption, it seemed, was the Falcons would hit Jones with some more money this season, spread out the cap hit, and give him a new deal next year. He’d get closer to the deals signed this offseason by Brandin Cooks and Sammy Watkins, players never mentioned in the same sentence as Julio.

That safe assumption is wrong, per Jeff Schultz at his new home at The Athletic. Congrats, Jeff, but why start off with this?

The Falcons have informed Julio Jones that they have no plans to give him the raise that he is seeking before the 2018 season, but they maintain hope that Jones will report to training camp on time next week, The Athletic has learned.

That is concerning for both the team and fans. What is Atlanta’s plan for Jones?

But the Falcons told Jones that they already had budgeted for a renegotiation following the 2018 season, and he can expect a raise then. Jones and agent Jimmy Sexton have had a number of conversations with the organization, and Jones also has spoken with head coach Dan Quinn.

This is reasonable when you consider the Falcons have planned out their cap years ahead of time. A contract extension is unlikely in the cards, with Schultz mentioning (in order), the Falcons’ intention to sign Grady Jarrett, Jake Matthews, and Ricardo Allen to contract extensions.

According to the NFLPA, the Falcons have $5,661,067 in cap space for the 2018 season. The unwritten rule-of-thumb is to keep around $5 million heading into the season to pickup a handful of injury replacements. They can easily cut down the hit from Matthews, but are otherwise short on space for new deals. There are a few bonus/base salary moves they can do to push money around, but it will hurt the team down the line when they are also trying to pay Deion Jones and Keanu Neal.

The Falcons are reportedly optimistic-ish Jones shows up to camp, but it’s fair to wonder if he will. This is news to all of us, but it’s not news to Jones, who has not said anything negative to the press and recently reported to Matt Ryan’s offseason passing camp. I’m guessing they believe they have made a strong argument to Jones that they plan to bump his contract up to what he deserves, but they won’t lose a top player (which also includes Jake Matthews) to do that early. We’ll soon know how receptive he is to that argument.

The source Schultz is relying on appears to be firmly from the Falcons’ side. Jones may be of a different opinion regarding contract negotiations, or have a different expectation for camp. Either way, it does not sound like Jones will be receiving a pay bump in the near future. An extended holdout, of course, could change everything.