I get that we’re all tired of hearing about Julio Jones and his ongoing contract saga, holding out and looking for a new deal, and I’m sorry for adding on to it, but this is the prevailing story of the day.
As you all know by now, a major development has broken in this story, with The Athletic’s Jeff Schulz reporting that the Falcons will not be reworking Jones’ contract this offseason and that the team hopes to see him in training camp regardless.
Schultz notes that the Falcons have budgeted to renegotiate Jones’ contract and to give him more money, following the 2018 season.
Before I continue, let me just get one thing off my chest: THE FALCONS ARE NOT GOING TO TRADE JULIO JONES! There has been a lot of discussion about the birds potentially moving on from Jones if he holds out, but it simply will not happen. I’ll actually let Schultz himself tell you about it:
Cracking up at all the readers going back and forth about Falcons potentially trading Julio Jones if he holds out. People: I can say with 100 percent certainty that's NOT going to happen.— Jeff Schultz (@JeffSchultzATL) July 19, 2018
Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s continue.
Why the Falcons are handling this well
Thomas Dimitroff has been lauded as a bit of a salary cap wizard over the years, and that kind of reputation doesn’t come without planning out the cap years in advance. He’s had the renegotiation of Julio’s contract on his mind and in his plans, but not this soon in the process.
I think the Falcons are handling this situation correctly at the moment, not succumbing to Jones’ demands while at the same time promising that they will take care of him when the time comes (next offseason).
I’ve personally made my position on this situation clear from the beginning: Giving Julio Jones a new contract right now would be a mistake. With that being said, however, I completely understand why he wants to renegotiate his deal. With Brandin Cooks receiving his new contract, Jones is now ninth among WRs in terms of annual salary average ($14,250,000). He checks in behind Antonio Brown, Mike Evans, DeAndre Hopkins, Cooks, Sammy Watkins, Jarvis Landry, AJ Green and Davante Adams in that order.
Julio also doesn’t have any more guaranteed money left on his contract, which takes away security and peace of mind. The only leverage he has at the moment is his ability to hold out and demand a renegotiation and, given the circumstances, I don’t blame him at all for doing so.
However, as I’ve said more times than I can count over the past two months, renegotiating any contract that has three years left on it is a terrible precedent to set. I understand that Jones is a special football player, but nobody’s contract should even be looked at so soon after the player signed it. The Falcons do have other special players who are going to watch how the Falcons handle this very keenly.
Remember, when Julio was given this contract three offseasons ago he became the highest paid WR in the game, and got more guaranteed money than anybody else at his position. The market for WRs has gone up between then and now, which is why you have guys like Adams, Evans and Landry, who aren’t as good as Jones, getting paid more. But the reason for that is because this was their time to get paid, the same way it was Jones’ time to get paid in the 2015 offseason. It’s just the nature of the free agent market: sometimes you’re the hammer, and sometimes you’re the nail.
Julio (and everyone else) will be taken care of
The Falcons also have other mouths to feed in the coming offseasons. Jake Matthews, Grady Jarrett and Ricardo Allen are all next in line for extensions. After them, the team still has to take care of Deion Jones, Vic Beasley and Keanu Neal. Moving money around now could hurt the team down the line when it comes to negotiating these extensions, and could potentially result in the team unnecessarily losing a key contributor.
Arthur Blank will see to it that Jones is taken care of. He’ll be sitting down at the negotiating table next to Thomas Dimitroff with Jones and agent Jimmy Sexton on the opposite end of them next offseason. Some money will be moved around to give Julio a raise, as was accounted for and planned out by Dimitroff in advance.
With that promise made, I hope that Jones will report to training camp and get to work with his brothers in what is a Super Bowl or bust season for the Falcons.