Is the Falcons relationship with Julio Jones salvageable?

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As of now, the situation between the Falcons and Julio Jones is passed the boiling point; it’s already exploded. I would say that happened when Shannon Sharpe unexpectedly called Julio Jones on live television and asked the All-Pro wide receiver if he wanted to stay in Atlanta, to which Jones responded, “I’m outta here.” Whether what Sharpe did was legal or not is an entirely different story, and that’s something Fox Sports will have to deal with moving forward, but there’s no way for Julio to take back what he revealed to the entire world Monday morning, which is that he has a strong desire to play elsewhere in 2021 and beyond.

You have to wonder how we got to this point. Julio Jones was handed a three-year, $66 million extension — $64 million of which was guaranteed at signing — with multiple years still remaining on his current contract. He was made the highest-paid wide receiver in football and still makes the second-highest AAV among wide receivers behind only De’Andre Hopkins. On several occasions, Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank said that he wants Jones to be a “Falcon for life,” and this extension was supposed to be a substantial step towards making that a reality. Even as recently as 2019, Jones reiterated there is “no doubt” pride in being a Falcon for life.

So how exactly did we get to this point so quickly? And is there any way this situation can be salvaged, resulting in Jones staying in Atlanta for at least one more season?

Jeff Schultz and Tori McElhaney of The Athletic recently dove into the dirt on Tuesday, and while there was a lot of pure speculation, one thing became clear: the Falcons’ relationship with Jones has been on the rocks for a while.

According to the article, the relationship hasn’t been the same since the contract negotiations that took place in 2019, resulting in the three-year, $66 million extension.

The relationship hasn’t been the same since contentious contract negotiations in 2019, which resulted in a three-year, $66 million extension just before the start of the season. Jones sat out of training camp in 2018 before the Falcons adjusted his contract and considered doing the same in 2019 before Blank assured him he’d get a new deal. One source said it was much more difficult to negotiate that deal than the one Jones signed in 2015. Negotiations work best, the source said, when they can be win-win situations. Both sides believed they lost in this one.

I find it almost unfathomable that Jones’ camp felt they were robbed in negotiations. He still had multiple years remaining on his contract, became the highest-paid wide receiver in the league, inked the first-ever guaranteed contract for a wide receiver, but there really isn’t any other explanation unless something went on behind closed doors that we aren’t aware of. Things seem to have only spiraled out of control since then; losing can do that to a relationship, but I have a feeling the decision to restructure Matt Ryan and take calls on Jones was probably the straw that broke the camel’s back that led him to request a trade formally.

After Monday’s fallout, it almost feels inevitable that Jones playing in another uniform will happen sooner rather than later, but Schultz and McElhaney did not rule out the possibility of the two sides coming together and working it out — even if it is a long shot.

The issues between Jones and the Falcons go beyond his contract and the salary cap, according to multiple industry sources. If the Falcons really wanted to keep Jones around, they could make it work, the sources said. But things have been tenuous for some time.

Frankly, I’m not certain what the Falcons could do to convince him to say. Surely, they wouldn’t consider giving him another extension. I’m not even sure they would consider restructuring his contract, especially after this fiasco, making it more difficult to move him in the future. At this point, the only thing Jones seems to want is out, and if that’s the case, the Falcons should oblige.

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