For the past month, the seemingly once perfect relationship between the Falcons organization and their star wide receiver Julio Jones has turned into summer’s hottest drama. Jones did not participate in OTA’s because he was unhappy with his contract, but the team was sure Julio would be attending mandatory mini camp. However, days before the start of mini camp, the Falcons announced he would be holding out. Now, reports are coming out that the Falcons and Jones are in “bad place”. Who knows exactly what kind of communication the two sides have had regarding a pay raise, but if there is one thing you can take to the bank, Atlanta is going to figure out how to make Jones happy.
Flashback to seven years ago, Thomas Dimitrioff made the biggest blockbuster trade of his young career, when he moved up 21 spots to pick Julio Jones sixth overall. Jones has lived up to every bit of the hype and more, making this deal perhaps the best of Dimitrioff’s career as general manager. Jones is one of the main reasons this Falcons offense has been able to cement itself among the top ten in the league year in and year out. Outside of Matt Ryan, he is easily the most valuable player in Atlanta. Contract disputes happen constantly this time of year, and while nobody likes to see one of their team’s best players missing practice, Julio deserves to be paid.
According to the Falcoholic, The AJC’s D. Orlando Ledbetter feels Jones will eventually be back with the Falcons sooner rather than later:
“Yes, I do [expect a deal to get done]. I think he’ll be in camp on time, and they’ll work their differences out. Nothing major, but it’s major enough to keep him away from camp. The markets for wide receivers went up over the offseason, and [it] looks like Julio wants an adjustment to his contract.”
The most interesting part of this quote is the last sentence. Prior to the 2015 season, Atlanta inked Jones to a 5-year deal worth over $70 million. Arthur Blank called Julio “a lifer” to the organization, as the contract made him the second highest paid receiver and placed him just ahead of newly signed Demaryius Thomas and Dez Bryant.
How did Jones respond to his new contract? Oh, only by recording not one but two of the best recorded seasons ever by a wide receiver in the Pro Football Focus era, including the highest rated season ever at the position with a grade of 96.5. 2017 was a down year for Jones and he still caught 88 passes for 1,444 yards while battling nagging injuries. Even if receivers like Thomas and Bryant have certainly underwhelmed since signing for top dollar, Jones has gotten it done at every level.
Ledbetter is spot on when speaking on how the market for receivers is on the rise. Mike Evans is heading into the first year of his deal worth $82.5 million over the next five years. DeAndre Hopkins is going into the second year of his 5-year, $81 million contract. Even lesser receivers like Jarvis Landry, Davante Adams and Sammy Watkins have higher annual salaries than Jones. Some may call it a diva move, but Jones is getting underpaid, and this is his way of asking for it from an organization that he has done nothing but represent at the highest standard.
With that being said, Atlanta is going to pay Julio Jones. It may not happen prior to the start of the season, and Jones likely will not hold out of any actual games, but negotiating this deal has been moved to the top of the Falcons priority list. Jones is in the argument for the best receiver in the league, and he will be in store for an Antonio Brown type pay bump (at least 17 million per season) when the deal is finally complete.