As we’ve seen countless times over the years, there isn’t always a happy ending or even a happy middle for elite wide receivers and the teams that drafted them. Antonio Brown forced his way out of Pittsburgh and has now forced his way out of the Raiders organization before ever playing a regular season snap, Odell Beckham Jr. was shipped out by the Giants because their ownership group is as dumb as a bag of bricks, and heck, Calvin Johnson retired rather than keep playing with the Lions. From Terrell Owens to Randy Moss, greats have left their original teams and found success elsewhere, over and over again.
The list of greats who stuck with one team is fairly slim, and includes guys like Isaac Bruce, Andre Reed, and someday soon perhaps Larry Fitzgerald. That list could also—and if everything goes well, will also—include Julio Jones.
I was going to write something on the implications of Julio’s new deal, but those implications are fairly obvious. Julio’s contract should keep him locked onto this roster for the next three years and, if healthy, he should continue to produce as one of the best receivers in the NFL in his traditional drama-free way.
But his place in history? Now that he’s on this roster for the next 3-5 seasons, it’s worth re-visiting that.
Julio is already either the best or second-best receiver in team history, depending on your feelings on Roddy White’s body of work. From a statistical perspective, he’s going to surpass Roddy in very short order.
Julio enters the year 132 yards behind Roddy, a total he should be able to surpass in the first three weeks of the season. He’s 110 receptions behind, a total he should handily walk by sometime in early 2020, if not earlier. And he’s 12 touchdowns behind Roddy as well, and that’s a mark he’ll likely reach next season as well.
The Falcons have had some truly great receivers over the years, from Alfred Jenkins to Andre Rison to Terance Mathis and of course Roddy. For Julio not just to surpass them but to likely leave them in the dust is extremely impressive, even in today’s passing-friendly times.
From there, he’ll have a chance to continue his assault on the NFL record books.
Julio’s currently 39th in yardage, 48th in receptions, and tied for 117th in touchdown grabs. None of those numbers knocks your socks off at the moment, but you have to continue the pace he’s working on, which includes the single highest receiving yards per game total in league history.
It’s fair to say that if Julio stays healthy, he’s going to move up those ranks quickly. If he puts up 1,500 yards in 2019, he’ll be around 25th in that metric by season’s end. If he puts up 100 receptions, he’ll clock in at 35th there, just behind Roddy White. And eight touchdowns, which you should note is less of a given, would put him tied for 90th with the great Mark Duper. In two years time at that relatively modest pace, he’d be 16th in yardage, 23rd in receptions, and 46th in touchdown grabs. And so on.
The point is, as is the case with Matt Ryan, that we’re witnessing greatness on our favorite football team, and the sky is the limit for him. Only the legendary Larry Fitzgerald and Antonio Brown, assuming he doesn’t elect to walk away from the game at some point, have played as long or longer than Julio and figure to finish above him in any of those core metrics above. Julio and Ryan are a historically great duo, we’ve had none of the intrigue that has marked the careers of other elite receivers, and despite the many nicks and bruises Julio deals with on a weekly basis, he’s played every game for a long time now.
With the new contract, we can look forward to seeing what Julio does next, and hoping his individual greatness helps drag the Falcons to the glory we’ve been waiting for them to achieve for our entire lives. At the very least, he should cement his place as one of the best ever to do it in relatively short order.