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Career Window: Is Julio Jones ever going to slow down?

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Probably not. Hopefully.

Atlanta Falcons v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Julio Jones entered the league in 2011 and has been one of the best receivers in the NFL since then. He is a rare mix of elite athleticism, route running prowess and humble leader. That said, he turns thirty this month and many fans wonder if he’ll go the road of Calvin Johnson or Jerry Rice. Let’s take a look at his contract situation and how much longer we may get to see him in Atlanta.

His contract and the upcoming negotiations

Julio’s amazing production was awarded in August of 2015 with a 5 year deal worth nearly 72 million, with 47M of that guaranteed. At the time, it made Julio one of the highest paid receivers in the NFL. Since signing that contract guys like Mike Evans, DeAndre Hopkins and Jarvis Landry have jumped ahead of Jones even as his production has continued at the highest levels. Given that the guarantees in Julio’s contract disappeared in 2018, fans were treated to a brief holdout before the preseason, which ended when the Falcons agreed to restructure his contract in the 2019 off-season.

The Falcons have already stated that their top two priorities are to get Grady Jarrett signed and to get Julio Jones a new contract. While some fans will complain about giving a new contract before the old one has expired, it’s clear that Jones is one of the best in the league. When you juxtapose that against his quiet demeanor cough Antonio Brown cough, rewarding Julio doesn’t seem like such a stretch. The terms of that deal remain to be seen.

His unbelievable production

Since coming into the league, Jones has only been held under 1000 yards twice: his rookie year and his injury year of 2013. Since that season, he’s had a minimum of 1400 yards per year. He’s averaging nearly 100 yards per game with a career average of 15.4 yards per reception. Despite the injuries he’s suffered, Julio has played 16 games the last two years and only missed three games total since 2014.

As for 2018, he finished with 1677 yards, 8 TDs and 113 receptions. That kind of production almost seems mundane for him, but is a testament to just how good he is.

Looking Ahead

The question, then, is whether Julio will retire early (ala Calvin Johnson) or play for an extended period of time (ala Jerry Rice). Calvin Johnson was one of the best receivers in the league when he retired after just 9 seasons in Detroit. His retirement at age 30 was shocking for many fans who thought he still had several more high quality years ahead of him. On the flip side, the legendary Jerry Rice played into his early 40s, though his most productive years in his late 30s and earlier.

Where Julio is concerned, he’s shown no signs of slowing down, but the yearly nagging injuries are bound to catch up. The contract extension he gets will tell us a lot about where the team thinks he’ll be, but it’s not unreasonable to think he can play at a high level to age 35 or so. That could mean the team will look to get him inked to another 5 year deal, which would likely be his last with the Falcons. While it’s highly unlikely Julio retires next year, I doubt we’ll see him play past age 35, at least in a Falcons uniform.

We are almost certainly in the last few years of Julio’s amazing career with the Falcons. By the time he’s done, he’s likely headed for the ring of honor and quite possibly a spot in the Hall of Fame.