Falcons Rumors

Jones’ Relationship With Falcons Strained?

Seeing the likes of Sammy Watkins, Jarvis Landry and Davante Adams surpass his once-NFL-high wide receiver contract, Julio Jones has stayed away from the Falcons in pursuit of an adjusted contract. And Dan Quinn appeared to intimate the sides were on the same page.

But there may be some fence-mending that needs to happen before the parties can work together again. Well, a new contract might do the trick, too. However, Jones and the Falcons have had a strained relationship for weeks, Mike Freeman of Bleacher Report notes.

Jones said earlier during Atlanta’s offseason program, which he stayed away from, there was no bad blood between he and the Falcons. That may not be entirely true as he guns for an updated deal. Jones has three seasons left on a contract agreed to in 2015, one that’s paying him $14.25MM per year but has little guaranteed dollars remaining.

Additionally, the Falcons look to be concerned about the person he’s chosen to train with in lieu of attending team workouts. D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (via CBS Sports) said during a radio interview this week Atlanta’s front office has been “uneasy” about Jones working out with Terrell Owens, one of the most polarizing players in NFL history.

This will be Jones’ final season in his 20s, and he’s going into his eighth year. And given the contracts recently handed out, this serves as a logical juncture for Jones to make a stand. The holdout, with three years left on a contract, also has the Falcons “uneasy”, per Ledbetter. While a contract amendment with so much time left would set a precedent the team likely would prefer to avoid, it’s hard to picture the Falcons lining up without Jones in Week 1.

For now, though, the decorated wideout is at odds with the Falcons and is part of an extensive holdout contingent.

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Falcons OC Steve Sarkisian On The Hot Seat?

Steve Sarkisian is entering his second season as Falcons offensive coordinator, but the coach’s job could already be in jeopardy. Appearing on “The Wake Up Call” on ESPN Charlotte, D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution said Sarkisian is on the hot seat (via Matthew Chambers of SBNation’s The Falconholic).

Specifically, Ledbetter noted that the offensive coordinator disappointed during his first year on the job, and a “change will be in order” if the offense struggles again. Furthermore, the team brought in new quarterbacks coach Greg Knapp in an attempt to help with the offensive game plan, with Ledbetter referring to the coach as Sarkisian’s “sounding board.”

Following a 2016 conference-winning season where the Falcons led the NFL in points and finished second in yards, the team took a step back in 2017. Atlanta ultimately ranked 15th in points and eighth in yards, with quarterback Matt Ryan and running back Devonta Freeman putting up some of their worst numbers in several seasons. The team is hoping that some of their offseason additions will help improve the offense, including first-round wideout Calvin Ridley. The Falcons also added free agent tight end Logan Paulsen and offensive guard Brandon Fusco.

Sarkisian was hired by the Falcons last offseason after Kyle Shanahan took the 49ers head coaching gig. The 44-year-old had recently served as the offensive coordinator at Alabama and the head coach at Washington and USC. His only other NFL stint came in 2004, when he served as the Raiders quarterbacks coach.

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This Date In Transactions History: T.J. Yates, Akeem Dent

Four years ago today, we had a rare June NFL trade. In a relatively interesting move (at the time), the Texans sent quarterback T.J. Yates to the Falcons for linebacker Akeem Dent.

Houston had actually planned on releasing Yates, their 2011 fifth-round pick. The North Carolina product had failed to show much during his first three years in the NFL, throwing three touchdowns and six interceptions in 13 games. With coach Bill O’Brien deciding to roll with the trio of Ryan Fitzpatrick, Case Keenum, and Tom Savage, Yates was set to be released and hit free agency. However, once word of Yates’ impending release got around the NFL, teams started calling in on the young signal-caller.

Houston ended up landing on a deal with the Falcons, receiving the intriguing Dent in return. The 2011 third-round pick had looked solid during his stint in Atlanta, starting 10 games and compiling 136 tackles in three years. While the Georgia product failed to progress during his time in Houston, the trade still appears to be a win for the Texans. Dent collected 38 tackles and one sacks in 15 games (seven starts) during his first season in Houston, earning himself a two-year extension. However, over the next two seasons, Dent only managed to compile a combined 29 tackles and zero sacks. The 30-year-old hasn’t appeared in the NFL since 2016.

Yates’ tenure with the Falcons was short-lived. The quarterback appeared in only a single game for the franchise, completing three of four passes for 64 yards and one interception. He was released by Atlanta prior to the 2015 season, and he ended up catching on again with… the Texans. Yates looked a bit better during his second (and third) stint in Houston, and he earned a chance to play this past season due to injuries. He finished the 2017 campaign having completed 48.5-percent of his passes for 523 yards, four touchdowns, and three interceptions.

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Examining Key 2018 Holdouts

The 2014 first round produced some of the NFL’s best players, and they comprise part of an extensive group of that skipped minicamp and could well be training camp holdouts. But several other standout players didn’t show for their respective teams’ mandatory workouts either. Here’s a look on where things stand with this absent contingent.

Aaron Donald, Los Angeles Rams: The reigning defensive player of the year is holding out for a second straight summer. He skipped the Rams’ minicamp, as expected, and remains focused on a landscape-changing deal. Both Donald and Khalil Mack are in line to eclipse Von Miller‘s $19MM annual salary, but the California-based franchises may be hesitant to be the first to authorize a $20MM-per-year pact for a defender. However, Les Snead‘s already conceded the Rams will have to finalize a Donald deal that makes him the league’s highest-paid defender. But with the Broncos superstar having signed his extension in a $155MM cap year, it’s likely Donald’s camp — particularly on the heels of a season where the all-world interior defender won DPOY honors after his holdout induced a two-game absence — is targeting a figure well north of Miller’s, with the cap now at $177.2MM.

The Rams see this process unfolding in a less contentious fashion this year, but a Donald deal — one that’s putting other priorities on hold — isn’t imminent.

David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals: Unlike Le’Veon Bell and the Steelers, this process features no immediate deadline. But Johnson’s contract expires after this season, with no fifth-year option available to the franchise. Johnson and the Cards are engaging in extension discussions, and Steve Keim said this week — as his All-Pro back skipped minicamp — the team looks forward to signing Johnson long-term.

This has not proven to be an acrimonious situation, but Johnson is on a slightly different timetable than Bell. Despite being a fourth-year player compared to Pittsburgh’s All-Pro entering his sixth season, Johnson is a few months older than Bell and will turn 27 in December. However, it may be in his best interests to wait and see what happens with Bell by the July 16 franchise tag extension deadline.

Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons: The NFL’s seen its wide receiver salary landscape shift since Jones signed his extension in August 2015. That contract made Jones the NFL’s highest-paid wideout, but seven receivers have since surpassed him. This includes Sammy Watkins and slot target Jarvis Landry, who respectively signed 2018 deals for $16MM and $15.1MM annually. Atlanta’s top weapon wants a revised contract and skipped OTAs and minicamp, and the Falcons are discussing such an amendment.

Jones has three seasons and minimal guarantees remaining on his deal, which averages $14.25MM per year. The team’s response a Jones camp proposal did not meet with the group’s approval, but the sides continue to negotiate. The 29-year-old pass-catcher said recently he has no intentions of forcing his way out of Atlanta.

Taylor Lewan, Tennessee Titans: The left tackle is part of the 2014 first-round contingent entering fifth-year option seasons, and he joined some of the group’s higher-profile players in skipping mandatory June workouts. Jon Robinson said upon being informed of Lewan’s impending minicamp absence that the parties are participating in ongoing re-up dialogue, but as recently as late May, no reports indicated this was the case.

A two-time Pro Bowler, Lewan is entering his age-27 season and is now shooting for Nate Solder‘s $15.5MM-AAV standard. That’s $2MM-plus more than any other left tackle makes, and the Giants authorized that contract amid free agency circumstances. This will complicate matters for Lewan and other extension-seeking tackles. Lewan’s option season is set to be worth $9.341MM.

Khalil Mack, Oakland Raiders: After not joining Donald in a 2017 holdout, despite being in essentially the same situation, Mack is doing so this year. He has not reported to the Raiders this offseason. The 2016 defensive player of the year saw 2014 draftee teammates Derek Carr and Gabe Jackson sign lucrative extensions, only to see the Raiders put his on hold — mirroring other teams’ processes with ’14 first-rounders — because of the franchise-friendly fifth-year option. Reggie McKenzie‘s maintained the franchise intends to extend Mack in 2018 and said other players’ situations aren’t factoring into these discussions. Though, it’d be hard to believe Donald’s process isn’t impacting Mack’s at all.

The Raiders and Mack weren’t close on terms in April, but both Carr and Jackson signed their extensions in June of last year, perhaps pointing to a near-future resolution. Unlike the Rams, however, the Raiders have a top-tier quarterback salary on their books. That could cause issues elsewhere on the roster. Although, the cap’s perpetual rise negates some of those potential problems.

Earl Thomas, Seattle Seahawks: Perhaps the most interesting of these situations, the Seahawks have dangled Thomas in trades but expect him to report for training camp. Like Jones, Thomas saw several at his position usurp him in the salary hierarchy since signing an extension. Thomas signed a $10MM-AAV contract to make him the highest-paid safety in 2014. Again in a contract year, he’s threatened a holdout for months and is following through. The Cowboys and Seahawks discussed a draft-weekend deal for the three-time All-Pro. While Dallas balked about sending a second-round pick for the 29-year-old defender, the teams may well revisit these talks.

Either way, Thomas is going to want Eric Berry money ($13MM AAV) on his third contract. With Richard Sherman in San Francisco and Kam Chancellor‘s career in doubt, Thomas is the last remaining member of the Legion of Boom. It’s just uncertain if he’ll finish out his second contract in Seattle or be shipped elsewhere and end that dominant era.

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Falcons, Julio Jones Discussing New Deal

Julio Jones has been staying away from the Falcons as he pushes for a new deal, but coach Dan Quinn is confident that a resolution is on the horizon. This week, Quinn hinted at dialogue between the two sides regarding a revised contract. 

The good news is that there are conversations that have begun,” Quinn said (via D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution). “We’ll keep those private. I have a lot of faith in the organization and also in Julio that things will get resolved with good communications. I’m sure that’ll be a part of it as well.”

Jones skipped the team’s voluntary offseason program as well as the club’s mandatory minicamp this week. By skipping the minicamp, Jones will be subject to roughly $85K in fines.

There were contract talks between the two sides before minicamp, but that round of discussions didn’t go well. Reportedly, a contract proposal was sent by Jones’ team to Atlanta brass and the “response was not satisfactory” to Jones’ camp.

Jones is under contract through the 2020 season, but his deal is now below market value thanks to the advancement of the wide receiver market. His six-year deal worth an average of $13.5MM per year seemed substantial at the time of signing in 2015, but it pales in comparison to deals for other top WRs in 2018. Seven receivers now outpace Jones in terms of average annual value: Antonio Brown, Mike Evans, DeAndre Hopkins, Sammy Watkins, Jarvis Landry, A.J. Green, and Davante Adams.

Meanwhile, the Falcons have several other players angling for extensions, with Ricardo AllenGrady Jarrett, and Jake Matthews all also wanting new deals. They recently committed a massive amount of money to Matt Ryan‘s mega-extension, so it may prove tricky to give new deals to every key player seeking one.

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Minor NFL Transactions: 6/13/18

Here are Wednesday’s minor moves.

Atlanta Falcons

Cleveland Browns

Seattle Seahawks

This Date In Transactions History: Michael Vick

On this date in 2009, the Falcons moved on from the biggest star in the history of their franchise. After unsuccessful attempts to trade Michael Vick, the Falcons cut finally ties with the quarterback. 

With the ability to run as well as he could throw, Vick was one of the brightest young stars in the NFL. In six seasons, he earned three Pro Bowl nominations and led the Falcons to the NFC championship game twice. The first go-round in 2002 snapped a four-year playoff drought in Atlanta.

The trajectory of Vick’s career and the entire Falcons franchise changed in 2007 when Vick was indicted for his role in the Bad Newz Kennels dog fighting ring. The Falcons pretty much made up their minds on Vick after the quarterback was sentenced to nearly two years in prison, but there were paperwork and cap issues to sort out. The Falcons successfully recovered ~$20MM of Vick’s $37MM signing bonus in ’07, but it wasn’t until the summer of ’09 that they formally terminated his nine-year deal which had the potential to be worth as much as $130MM.

The Falcons were able to move on from the Vick era after selecting Matt Ryan with the third overall pick in the 2008 draft. Vick, meanwhile, managed a second act in the NFL after landing with the Eagles. He was signed to be Donovan McNabb‘s backup in 2009, but he wound up as the team’s starting QB in 2010 after McNabb was traded and Kevin Kolb suffered a concussion. Vick went on to take the Eagles to the playoffs and eventually sign a six-year, $100MM extension with Philly.

Vick’s subsequent stints with the Jets and Steelers were less remarkable and he was unable to find an NFL home in 2016. Last summer – on the eight-year anniversary of his release from Atlanta – Vick retired after signing a ceremonial contract with the Falcons.

With his playing days behind him, Vick has now set his sights on coaching. He’ll serve as the offensive coordinator of the Alliance of American Football’s Atlanta franchise when the league kicks off in February.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

More Minor NFL Transactions: 6/11/18

Another round of minor moves from today:

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

Denver Broncos

Seattle Seahawks

Julio Jones To Skip Falcons’ Minicamp

Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones will not be attending the team’s mandatory minicamp, GM Thomas Dimitroff announced in a statement on the team’s website.

The statement reads “We have been in contact with Julio and his representation. We will not discuss those conversations publicly except to say we feel they have been productive and constructive. We understand the concerns and thoughts from their perspective. Although not ideal, Julio informed us today he would not be attending mini-camp. We have much respect for him and what he means to our team, our city and our fans.”

As Mike Garafolo of NFL Network points out, Jones had said last month that there was “no story to be told” when asked about reports he was unhappy with his contract (Twitter link). Jones had skipped the voluntary portions of the Falcons’ offseason program, but by missing the mandatory minicamp, he’ll be subject to fines of up to $84K if he misses all three days. When he first missed OTAs Jones said “I’m not going anywhere”, and insinuated his contract wouldn’t be a problem. The team had previously told reporters they expected Jones to show up for minicamp.

A source told Josina Anderson of ESPN that “a contract proposal was sent” by Jones’ team and that the “response was not satisfactory” from the team, causing Jones to decide to skip minicamp (Twitter link). Jones is now officially holding out from his contract that runs through the 2020 season. Despite being locked up for several more years, Jones is holding out because his salary is well below market value. He signed a six-year deal back in 2015 with an average annual salary of only $13.5MM, far below what he would fetch today on the open market.

The Falcons have a long list of players angling for extensions, with Ricardo Allen, Grady Jarrett, and Jake Matthews all also wanting new deals. They recently committed a massive amount of money to Matt Ryan‘s mega-extension and will be running low on funds by the time they lock up everybody who needs a new deal. Aside from Ryan, Jones is by far the most important player on the team, and it would be surprising if the Falcons don’t do something to sweeten his deal and keep their star receiver happy.

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Falcons’ Ricardo Allen Signs RFA Tender

Falcons free safety Ricardo Allen has officially inked his restricted free agent tender, as Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com tweets. Allen was the last of this year’s tendered restricted free agents to sign his deal. 

Coming from Pick [No.] 147 to being cut and spending a whole year on the practice squad, then next switching positions and playing something I’ve never played before to securing at least $3MM this year for my family,” Allen said. “I don’t think there is anyone around that doesn’t think I can/shouldn’t make more, but I’m grateful.”

Allen took a moderate gamble by waiting this long to sign his RFA tender, but the Falcons were unlikely to pull the $2.914MM deal given his past performance. In four seasons with the team, Allen has played in 46 games, including 45 starts. All in all, he has made six interceptions, ten deflected passes, one fumble recovery, and 158 tackles.

Allen played cornerback in college, but he has successfully transitioned to safety under head coach Dan Quinn. The two sides could hammer out a long-term deal between now and the start of the season, but it’s not immediately clear whether the team will engage him in talks.

Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff said that left tackle Jake Matthews and defensive tackle Grady Jarrett are up next for new deals after the completion of Matt Ryan‘s mammoth extension. Wide receiver Julio Jones has also taken notice of Ryan’s new deal and is pushing for a new multi-year contract of his own.

Allen is eager to sign a multi-year deal with Atlanta, but he already has secured a nice pay bump by signing the one-year tender. Last season, he made just $615K in base pay as an exclusive rights free agent.

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