The Falcons have a reputation, especially of late, for planning very well. They have nailed most of their contract negotiations to this point, they’ve built a talented roster patiently and effectively, and they clearly head into each offseason with an idea of where they’ll be allocating their money. When you look around the NFL and see so many poorly run teams, and once-great teams like the Broncos and Seahawks with less certain futures, you appreciate that kind of care and planning.
The only problem, of course, is that plans often go awry. That was the case this offseason, when Julio Jones’ quiet dissatisfaction with his contract mushroomed into a near-holdout that forced the team to consider just how far they were willing to deviate from the plan.
The answer was not very, and the team’s carefully chosen language after they reached an agreement with Julio hints at why.
Brotherhood is back on..— Zach Klein (@ZachKleinWSB) July 26, 2018
Julio Jones will report on time
Statement from Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/gtbwIyM8ho
“I know it’s semantics but we weren’t looking at it as a renegotiation, it was an adjustment for us.” Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff on if the decision to adjust Julio Jones’ contract will set a precedent for players in the future to request deals early in their contracts. pic.twitter.com/psGiBlnV56— Wes Blankenship (@Wes_nship) July 26, 2018
An adjustment. That’s one way to characterize an agreement that converted 2019 base salary into a 2018 bonus. It technically was not a re-work of the deal, and Dimitroff is taking pains to emphasize that because he knows very well that players were watching Julio’s situation very carefully.
What’s in an adjustment?
Primarily, the language is meant to discourage other players currently on the Falcons from trying to re-visit their deals with two, three, or even four years left. The Falcons can’t do much about the two year precedent, given that they’ve agreed to take a fresh look at Julio’s deal in the spring of 2019, but they made it clear from the beginning that they’re not re-structuring significantly or extending contracts with three years left. That’s true in the language, yes, but it’s also true given what Julio actually got from the team.
Tinkering with some money and moving it around is something the Falcons have signaled they’re amenable to in the right situation, but doing more would have set a precedent other Falcons may well have tried to follow suit. Continuing to emphasize the relatively minor nature of this change, even if the run-up to it was quite dramatic, may discourage others. That’s essential for a team loaded up with exciting young players who are going to be demanding lucrative extensions in the near future.
The Falcons continue to be excellent architects of their future, but you can’t control every variable. They made it through this particular crisis-in-the-making relatively unscathed, and they’ll hope their care in doing so now while still making a star player happy prevents headaches in the future, as well.