As we all sit with shaken anticipation to see if Julio Jones will report on time to Falcons training camp, part of me is beginning to wonder if Jones will be better off waiting around a bit to get this renegotiated deal.
If you’ve followed the long line of Cory Woodroof by-lines on the subject, you know where I stand on this: I’m fully in the “Julio deserves to get paid; the team needs to make sure to do right by him” camp. Jones was justified to hold out this summer as his guaranteed money was closing out, just as any player is in any contract situation ever.
He was never going to actually miss anything hugely important (*cough the season cough*). In an ever-changing market for his position, someone who qualifies as the best at what he does deserves to be compensated as such.
Jones has every right and justification to get paid today, but it actually might work out better for him to get paid tomorrow (or, er, next year).
Odell Beckham Jr.
The Beckham contract is what Jones and his agent Jimmy Sexton should always be vigilant about, particularly if the goal is to get him to the top per annual salary at the WR spot. Once Beckham re-ups with the Giants, he will no doubt eclipse Antonio Brown as being the top-paid receiver in the league. Right now, Brown makes about $17 million a year, a number Beckham will top by $1-3 million, as will Jones when it comes to rework his deal. His new deal will come before the first bell of free agency next offseason.
New York will have to get this done at some point next year, as Beckham is set to hit free agency in March 2019. If, bizarrely, the Giants let him go, someone will pay him around $18-20 million a year. Jones is a better player than Beckham, and could bargain to get more once that deal is done.
Why not let Beckham go first?
You never know what happens in a season, though, and it’s always smart to get paid when you can. But, then again, more money for Julio will come next year, not this year. Even at 30, he will still be one of the two best at his job in the league, so surely age won’t factor in for the team giving him potentially less money. Unless knocks on wood injury strikes, Jones will be the player tomorrow he is today, and will have the same leveraging power to get paid like the best in the NFL.
Plus, Jones just saw Matt Ryan become the highest-paid player at his position per annual because of waiting on Kirk Cousins to get his situation settled. Sometimes, it pays to wait.
If the Falcons are indeed serious about getting Jones taken care of next season, then it might not be the worst idea for Julio to go ahead, get 2018 in the rearview, and focus on his deal when the time comes.
Though, with the news we now know, if Julio does indeed decide to wait for 2019, and the team gets quiet, don’t be surprised if Jones wants to finish his career elsewhere (or finish his career in the winter). That’s a bridge you can’t rebuild, though, we have no reason to think the team wouldn’t follow through on their word.
If something doesn’t happen in the next month-and-a-half, the Falcons have made 2019 the year they have to pay their best player. Jones might be all the wiser (and richer) to allow the team’s reported plans to carry through.