For those of us hoping the Falcons don’t trade Julio Jones in 2021, a Grady Jarrett extension or restructure is the dream. Atlanta’s best defensive player by a mile and a half is still only 28 years old, and re-working his deal could free up enough cap space to sign the rookie class and add a couple more veterans through the summer as the team gets a better look at their roster battles and team needs.
Given the seeming win-win nature of a new deal for the Falcons, who need all the impact defenders they can get, you might think this team would be knee deep in negotiations with Grady Jarrett’s representation. You would be wrong about that.
In a piece this morning that is primarily about Julio Jones, Jeff Schultz at The Athletic reveals the Falcons haven’t picked up talks about altering Jarrett’s contract to this point.
Jarrett, a leader and their best defensive player, has a 2021 cap hit of $20.833 million (third highest behind Ryan and Jones). The club wants to keep him long-term, so a contract restructure or extension is on the table. Either would drop his cap number significantly. But the Falcons have yet to approach Jarrett’s camp about a new deal. It doesn’t mean they won’t, but Jarrett’s agent, Todd France, is one of the best around and a tough negotiator, and it’s not going to be an easy deal to get done.
It was fair to wonder, given the radio silence on this front, whether the Falcons had even broached the subject yet with Jarrett’s camp after the draft. We knew they hadn’t back in March, but we’re now two months beyond that and the team’s cap picture and offseason are a lot clearer than they were then. If true, this confirmation that they haven’t does not mean they won’t—there’s nothing saying they can’t spend the month of June hammering something out—but does lend credence to the idea that the team is trying to move Julio Jones and a Jarrett move is Plan B. That’s not how I’d prefer this went, but for better or for worse, that sounds like where we are.
If the Falcons do believe it’s either a Julio trade or a Jarrett adjustment, as Schultz is reporting, the Jarrett option seems more appealing both as a fan and as someone thinking about what it would take to win today. An extension for Jarrett that drives down his cap number in 2021 and 2022 would help this team navigate two sticky financial years while keeping a critical player around potentially a little longer. A restructure of his deal would carry future cap implications, which is likely why the team hasn’t jumped on that to this point, so the extension is preferable if they can get Jarrett’s agent to play ball.
Ultimately, the team will do what it feels it has to do to get themselves into a manageable long-term cap situation and put a quality team on the field, and if they believe Matt Ryan is going to be their quarterback for the next 3-5 years, that may well include swapping out Julio. If they want to win this year, though, I hope they’ll seriously consider a Grady extension, as there’s not a lot of downside in my mind to signing on a little longer with one of the team’s few essential men.
Jarrett, meanwhile, is doing what you’d expect a leader of his caliber to be doing: Ignoring all the contractual noise and Julio trade talk and talking up his teammates.
Asked Grady Jarrett if he thinks this defense is rebuilding, he said no. Said he thinks the pieces are there.— Tori McElhaney (@tori_mcelhaney) May 20, 2021