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Don’t panic about Julio Jones

No, Woody, now’s not the perfect time to panic.

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

News has broke that the Atlanta Falcons have told Julio Jones that they will, as of now, dig their heels into the ground and not offer him an extension before 2019.

Breathe a deep sigh of relief.

Things are now going to be okay.

The Falcons just showed the future for where this is all headed, even if how we’re going to get there is still, uh, a bit murky.

Of holdouts

As of typing, I have no idea how the holdout is going to actually progress. I have no crystal ball, nor a DeLorean with Doc Brown waiting for me in the driveway. We could get to the start of training camp with a slightly peeved-but-ready Julio suited up and catching passes. This whole holdout didn’t keep him from getting involved in Matt Ryan’s training camp. He could be ready to go for the season, with this contract thing an uncomfortable blip on the Jet stream. Julio could be back to breaking hearts and minds in secondaries across the league before we know it.

Or, he could hold out.

This news breaking has placed the team’s intentions in the front lawn on a sign for all the neighborhood to see. The Falcons, publicly, now won’t pay Julio Jones this year. Them “hoping” that he shows up to training camp showcases the power move Thomas Dimitroff is trying to say. “Hmph, well, we hope you’ll show up.” The idea of the team acquiring a veteran receiver if this carries into the season? Yeeeaaaah.

Jeff Schultz is as straight a shooter as there is in this business, and he’s to be taken as seriously as any. But, at the same time, this isn’t necessarily the foregone conclusion. This all reads like the team is practically baiting Jones to hold out.

If he does, it makes justifying the early extension all the easier.

This feels like a strategic move by the Falcons to make it look like their hands were tied when the inevitable extension comes up, so when all these other agents come into play ball with their own extensions, they can justify doing Julio’s deal with a “well, if we didn’t, your client’s team would be missing their best player.”

Both things can be true: the Falcons can very much not want to pay Julio Jones right now, and could also be very aware that sleeping with the inevitable decision at night will be much easier if they play victim, and, er, allow Jones to push them to the brink where waiving the extension sheet is seen as a move of desperation, not as a meeting in the middle.

This entire saga feels quite driven by something beyond money. The idea of Jones retiring doesn’t feel as crazy anymore, and one wonders if Jones knows the team’s window this season, and would contemplate a departure from the game if he’s got a ring on the finger come next February. If not, maybe continue playing a season or two more to make more money for the future, and chase that elusive balm for 28-3 to cap one hell of a career.

This is all speculation, of course, but there’s not much more to go on at the moment.

Of fireworks and what’s next

Jones missing training camp would officially break out the lighter and sparklers, if not the major fireworks, but how is this any different than the myriad of future Hall of Famers who do the same thing every summer? Have we just gotten lucky these past few years with having to not deal with this? Can we just take a second to account how normal this situation is for star NFL players with contract disputes with their organization?

I can’t speak to what Jones will do, but I can give you an idea of where I think this is going: the team has basically dared Julio at this point not to report. Julio has come a long way, and has put the leg work in to get this deal done. Baking soda will probably meet vinegar, and I think the odds are low 11 will be at camp the starting day, unless he’s ready to bite this lip and start the uphill climb to get this settled in 2019, when was apparently the plan all along. It is odd we’re just hearing this now, post-holdout.

Plus, if Jones holds out, he technically gets what he wants in an extension, on his terms. If begrudgingly shows up to camp that first day, that’s unsettled business. It’d be easier (and just) for Atlanta to keep Julio happy by getting him this extension now, while still acting like this was just how they progress in the situation. A disgruntled Jones on time is much worse than a happy Jones who shows up later on his terms.

Do you honestly think Arthur Blank is stupid enough to disgruntle his best player enough to miss the sweet spot of preseason and an actual season game? We forget we, y’know, actually cheer for a competent franchise.

This all feels scripted. The team digs its heels in, Jones doesn’t show up, the team feels like it’s being pushed to the brink to prove that they’ve exhausted all their options and know damn well what Julio actually missing a game would look like and get this all settled before preseason really gets cooking, then, voila, the Jet flies again.

Looking ahead

But, even so, this all still feels like it won’t matter in a month. No matter what twist or turn await us, we know the destination. Jones will be in the lineup Week 1, ready for another season of domination. He and Ryan will find some way to get in sync. He will probably get more touchdowns. Heck, he might even win the MVP or whatever. I don’t know; it’s the Jet we’re talking about. He can do anything.

Worst case scenario, he misses the preseason, and they push this to September. Best case scenario, Jones comes to peace with doing this later, or Atlanta fears even one missed Jet practice could hinder 2018.

Look, folks, I’m telling you, we know how this ends - with a Ryan to Jones bomb of 40 yards on an unsuspecting Eagles defense to open the season. All will be right again; it was always going to right itself when it counted, even if the road was a bit bumpy.

So, relax, stop acting like Jones doesn’t deserve what’s going to come his way (he so, so does), and let’s continue to watch this movie unfold. After all, we already know the ending.