We learned at the end of last month that Julio Jones and his agent had begun working towards a long-term extension that would keep the star wideout in a Falcons uniform for the foreseeable future. Although there is not yet a timeline for such an extension, owner Arthur Blank expects Jones to be a Falcon not only for the next few years, but for the remainder of his career.
Per D. Orlando Ledbetter of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Blank said, “We’re moving as quickly as we can. The player has been fabulous. He came into camp in great shape. He’s working all-out. There is no hesitation or question on his part.…We expect Julio to be lifer for the Falcons. We are moving forward and have every reason to be positive and be enthusiastic about it.”
The market for top-flight receivers was, of course, set just a few weeks ago, when Demaryius Thomas and Dez Bryant inked five-year, $70MM deals with their respective clubs. As our Luke Adams pointed out in his recent examination of Jones as an extension candidate, Jones is in line to land an even more lucrative contract, with an average annual value of over $15MM.
Jones’ numbers would certainly support such a deal. As Adams wrote, “in 15 games, Jones racked up 1,593 yards and six touchdowns on 104 receptions, setting a new Falcons team record for most receiving yards in a season. Pro Football Focus (subscription required) also ranked him right behind Bryant and Thomas, despite the fact that he played fewer snaps than either player.” However, a fractured foot limited Jones to just five games in 2013, he missed a game last season due to a hip pointer, and he has dealt with multiple hamstring issues in his professional career.
Blank, though, seems unconcerned with Jones’ injury history. He said, “We’ve gotten the best medical advice, really in the world. [Jones] followed their program last year to a tee. This year, he’s been able to do more in the offseason and it reflects in how he looks at camp.”
Blank also went out of his way to compliment Jones’ agent, Jimmy Sexton, calling him a “very professional agent who actually understands the business.” We have seen negotiations between clubs and their best players turn ugly, so it makes sense that both sides are working quickly towards a deal while positive feelings prevail. Blank certainly wants to avoid any unnecessary drama next year, when Jones is eligible for unrestricted for free agency and would be a prime candidate for the franchise tag. And if Blank’s recent comments are any indication, he may be close to achieving that goal.