Julio Jones is arguably the best wide receiver in the NFL. The Falcons’ refusal to adjust his contract is a slap in the face to a player of his caliber.
Given the nature of contracts in the NFL, everything is negotiable. The Atlanta Falcons don’t seem to understand that. Their decision not to adjust Julio Jones’ contract this offseason could derail their 2018 season before it ever gets off the ground.
News broke today that Jones will not attend training camp due to his contract status. There have been murmurs of discontent all summer, but most Falcons observers believed the talented wideout would ultimately show up to camp on time. His decision to stay away is sending shock waves throughout the organization.
No one should really be surprised. Matt Ryan gets a lot of money to be the Falcons’ quarterback, but he is not the offense’s best player. That honor goes to Jones. Wide receivers who post four consecutive seasons with over 1,400 yards receiving don’t grow on trees. Jones is a generational talent at one of the game’s most important positions.
The former Alabama star is also seriously underpaid. He’s currently in the third-year of a five-year contract he signed back in 2016. This season he’s slated to make just $10.5 million in base salary. That’s well below the big contracts lesser receivers were able to garner this offseason. Jarvis Landry got a five-year, $75 million deal to play in the slot for the Browns. He’s nowhere close to the impact player that Jones is.
Jones isn’t your typical diva wide receiver either. He’s enjoyed a well-deserved reputation of being an excellent teammate during his time in Atlanta. The 29-year-old receiver is also a very willing blocker. Losing him wouldn’t just hurt the Falcons passing game, it would hamper their run game as well.
Jones’ decision to skip training camp really puts the Falcons front office in a tough spot. The fact that their decision not to renegotiate his contract leaked publicly means they will struggle to save face if they reverse course due to his holdout. That doesn’t mean they should sit back and do nothing.
Atlanta has legitimate Super Bowl aspirations this season and that sort of competitive window doesn’t stay open very long. If Jones doesn’t have a big year they can kiss those dreams goodbye. The Falcons need to pay Jones what he’s worth and get him into camp before this story becomes an even bigger distraction.