Things appeared to crack quickly between the Falcons and Julio Jones during the offseason. While new general manager Terry Fontenot and head coach Arthur Smith were transparent about their intention to keep things open with the future of the roster, it meant they were, at times, unable to commit to answering the two biggest questions facing the franchise:
What is to be done with (1) Matt Ryan, and (2) Julio Jones?
Both were given the “Falcons for life” designation by team owner Arthur Blank only a few seasons back. The two, rightfully assumed to be a package deal, were the key to whether the Falcons would look at a rebuild across the next few seasons or a retool with the hope of competing in 2021.
The Falcons restructured Ryan’s deal prior to the draft, guaranteeing he starts in 2021 and likely 2022. Jones, on the other hand, had no restructure. The Fontenot and Smith duo only said they were taking calls on trading Jones and had to consider their options.
Unsubstantiated rumors in the last week seemed to create more visible cracks. It started a wider discussion about trade destinations and teams discussing internally a trade for Jones, probably due in part to landing during a rare dead part of the NFL news cycle.
The cracks finally widened earlier this week when Jones said he is “out” of Atlanta in a conversation he may or may not have known was on air. Seemingly a month or two ago, Jones was a Falcon for life. Now he’s gone? How did those small cracks spread so quickly?
Former Falcons wide receiver Harry Douglas gave an elusive hint on Twitter.
My mamma taught me at a young age that just because you know ALL the tea ☕️, doesn’t mean you spill it! pic.twitter.com/SsT6dtcBVQ— Harry Douglas (@HDouglas83) May 25, 2021
That’s not much to go off of. Douglas appeared on 92.9 the next morning for his weekly Tuesday appearance to talk to Hugh Douglas and John Fricke and was inevitably asked about Julio, saying he knows a lot about the situation but doesn’t feel it’s his place to say exactly what’s going on.
Douglas, who refused to go into further specifics, indicated that the relationship between Jones and the team had been deteriorating for years. Douglas did not believe Jones would play for the Falcons in 2021.
“What’s gonna happen? Julio’s not going to play in Atlanta,” Harry Douglas told Fricke and Hugh Douglas in response to a question from Fricke about what would happen.
Douglas fell short of providing some good info but had one clear takeaway. That takeaway: things are bad. In response to Hugh Douglas singing “where we did go wrong,” Harry Douglas repeated that there are many things he could share but it’s not his place to do so.
“Hugh, it’s so crazy, because when you say ‘where did we go wrong,’ man, I could tell you so many things, but it’s not my place,” he said, adding a little later that “I know the X factor as to where it went wrong.”
Luckily, fans got a McElhultzbomb later on Tuesday (my apologies to both Jeff Schultz and Tori McElhaney). Per their latest from The Athletic, the relationship has been bad since the last contract negotiation. Per the aforementioned dynamic duo (my continued apologies), both Jones and the Falcons left the 2019 extension with some animosity.
Does that mean we can just blame Thomas Dimitroff and the old front office? Maybe! Could Dimitroff and the old FO possibly damage a long-term relationship while handing out $64 million guaranteed across three years with three years still remaining on the deal? Also maybe!
The one difference between both reports is Schultz and McElhaney believe the relationship can be salvaged. However, they admit it would require some work. Without knowing more, we can only baselessly speculate (as we did above) to the source of those cracks in the relationship. However, one could assume that many of those sources were let go in the last year.
We will need to wait for more information to understand what is going on between the Falcons and Jones. We do know that it increasingly appears the problems are serious ones.