Julio Jones

Falcons Won’t Give Julio Jones New Deal

The Falcons have informed Julio Jones that they have no plans to give Julio Jones a raise before the 2018 season starts, Jeff Schultz of The Athletic hears. However, the Falcons maintain hope that Jones will report to training camp next week. 

The Falcons have never renegotiated a contract with more than one year left on a deal, and Jones has three years to go on his pact. The Falcons are apparently holding the line for now, even though Jones is a transcendent talent. Instead, they’ll focus on extensions for players like defensive tackle Grady Jarrett, left tackle Jake Matthews and safety Ricardo Allen, all of whom are entering their walk years.

The Falcons have told Jones that they are willing to discuss his deal after the 2018 season, Schultz hears. The Falcons may feel that is a solid compromise given their position on early extension talks, but Jones may not see it that way.

After skipping the Falcons’ voluntary offseason program and mandatory minicamp, Jones watched Rams wide receiver Brandin Cooks ink a five-year, $80MM contract earlier this week. The new money average gives Cooks a higher average salary, even though he is not as accomplished as Jones. That development has almost certainly rankled the Falcons star.

Falcons training camp begins on Wednesday afternoon with the first practice scheduled for Thursday.

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South Notes: Falcons, Jones, Titans, Casey

Everyone is waiting to see whether Julio Jones will show up for Falcons training camp, but fans received an encouraging sign this week when Jones arrived at Matt Ryan‘s offseason passing camp (Twitter link via team). Jones has stayed away from the team this offseason in hopes of reworking his contract and it’s not clear if he’ll join his teammates on July 26 in Georgia.

Jones is underpaid for what he does, but he has three years to go on his deal and the Falcons aren’t under any real pressure to revise his deal. His yearly average of $14.25MM once seemed like a lot, but it’s now good for eighth among wide receivers. Jones could, in theory, improve his leverage by continuing to skip team activities, but he’ll have to pay substantial fines.

Here’s more from the South divisions:

  • Titans defensive end Jurrell Casey says he’ll stay on the field and protest during the national anthem, while accepting any fines levied against him under the terms of the new anthem policy. “I’m going to take a fine this year, why not?” said Casey (via CNN). “I’m going to protest during the flag. That’s what I’m going to say now.” Casey, 28, inked a four-year, $60.4MM extension with the Titans in 2017, so he can probably afford to pay some fines. It remains to be seen whether other players will follow suit.
  • Linebacker Darius Leonard is the only unsigned rookie left in the Colts‘ draft class yet to sign his contract, but that might not be the case for long. The Colts still expect to have a deal done by the time rookies report on Sunday, a source tells Stephen Holder of the Indy Star (on Twitter).

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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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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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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Julio Jones On OTA Absence: “I’m Not Going Anywhere”

Julio Jones has been absent from the Falcons’ organized team activities, leading some to assume that the superstar receiver was leveraging for a new contract. However, Jones told TMZ that we shouldn’t be reading into his no-show.

“We’re good,” Jones said (via Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com). “It’s not even about that. Everyone wants a story right now. There’s no story. I’m just working on getting myself better. There’s no bad blood with the team or anything like that…I’m not going anywhere.”

We heard earlier this month that Jones was seeking a reworked deal, especially after quarterback Matt Ryan signed a record-breaking extension. The 29-year-old receiver is set to earn $10.5MM in base salary this season, and there are a handful of minimal guarantees remaining on the deal. Meanwhile, his $14.25MM average annual salary ranks eighth among wideouts, and Jones is listed behind names like Jarvis LandrySammy Watkins and Davante Adams.

While Jones could certainly argue that he deserves to be the highest-paid wideout in the NFL, the Falcons probably aren’t looking to rip up a deal that runs through 2020. ProFootballTalk.com’s Mike Florio said this should realistically be the wideout’s final payday, and “he may have to take a real stand” to get the organization to budge.

On the flip side, as our own Sam Robinson pointed out, Atlanta’s brass has continually been in support of Jones, so there shouldn’t be any resentment between the two sides. Furthermore, owner Arthur Blank and coach Dan Quinn have both said that they aren’t concerned about Jones’ current absence, and it’s believed he’ll attend mandatory workouts.

The receiver is coming off his fourth straight season with at least 1,400 yards, as he finished with 88 receptions for 1,444 yards and three scores. The 2011 first-round pick has made the Pro Bowl in each of his last five healthy seasons.

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NFC Notes: Julio, Panthers, Bucs, Rams

As expected, Julio Jones reportedly did not attend the opening day of Falcons organized team activities, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s D. Orlando Ledbetter.

He adds head coach Dan Quinn will address the situation on Tuesday and did not respond to questions about the reports that Jones wants an update to his contract. Though he is absent, the two sides appear amenable and are likely to work things out in due time.

Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio speculates Jones, who has three years left on his current deal, could be trying to get the team’s attention after Matt Ryan‘s new contract is set to pay the quarterback ($30MM) twice the amount that Jones is to receive ($14.25MM). His current deal slots him in as the No. 8 receiver on the pay scale, behind players like Jarvis Landry, Sammy Watkins and Davante Adams.

Jason Fitzgerald of Over The Cap says that the word “update” could mean the Falcons moving money forward in Jones’ contract to make the team’s key player happy. On a team in win-now mode, the move could be seen as avoiding potential chemistry issues in the locker room. A recent example of this, according to Fitzgerald, is a similar situation with Antonio Brown and the Steelers.

“The Steelers twice moved money forward in Brown’s contract to prevent a player from being unhappy. In 2015 the Steelers moved $2 million from 2016 up to 2015 and in 2016 they moved $4 million from 2017 into 2016. Overall the team fronted him $4 million and then extended him in 2017.”

Regardless of what the course of action Atlanta chooses to pursue, it is unlikely to hinder it from fielding one of the top three receivers in the league in 2018.  

Here’s more from around the NFC:

  • The Panthers sale to David Tepper is expected to go through without “any surprises,” Houston Texans owner Bob McNair told ESPN’s David Newton. Tepper needs 24 votes — 23 with the absence of former Panthers GM Jerry Richardson — on Tuesday when the 31 NFL owners convene. Richardson is unlikely to attend, but nothing has been set in stone.
  • Florida Football Insiders posted a list of potential free agent targets for the Buccaneers, and named DeMarco Murray and Kenny Vaccaro as possibilities. Murray would make for a solid one-two punch with rookie running back Ronald Jones, while Vaccaro would bring a veteran presence to a shaky pass defense.
  • Linebacker Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, the Rams‘ fifth-round pick, underwent surgery on his foot and is expected to return sometime during training camp, head coach Sean McVay told ESPN’s Lindsey Thiry (Twitter link). Okoronkwo starred at Oklahoma in 2017, earning Co-Defensive Player of the Year honors in the Big 12 after logging 17.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks.

Julio Jones Wants Adjusted Contract

Julio Jones is entering the third season of a five-year, $71.25MM contract, but the All-Pro wide receiver wants the Falcons to make an adjustment to his deal, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (video link).

Jones is set to earn $10.5MM in base salary this season, and minimal guarantees remain on this deal. The 29-year-old wideout is not expected to be with his team for the start of OTAs, Rapoport reports. He’s been training on his own in Alabama throughout the offseason.

The Falcons do not view Jones’ absence from their voluntary workouts as a major issue, per Rapoport, and are also amenable to adjusting Jones’ deal. Jones is set to earn base salaries of $12.5MM and $11.43MM in 2019 and ’20, respectively. The per-year value of his deal ($14.25MM) has plummeted, and receivers with lesser pedigrees like Sammy Watkins, Jarvis Landry and Davante Adams are now signed to bigger deals.

This does not look to be an acrimonious situation, with Atlanta brass being strong Jones supporters. The Falcons’ top weapon has stacked together four straight seasons of 1,400-plus receiving yards, and from 2013-16, Jones averaged more than 100 air yards per game.

After giving Matt Ryan a record extension, the Falcons possess just more than $5MM in cap space entering OTAs, which begin Monday.

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Latest On Julio Jones, Falcons

Star Falcons wideout Julio Jones created some waves last week when he made his Twitter account private and scrubbed his Instagram profile of pictures of him in Falcons gear, though multiple reports later indicated that was simply because he wanted to create a fresh start for his social media profiles (per Josh Alper of Pro Football Talk). The Twitter account has since returned, but Jones has also been absent from the team’s voluntary offseason program, leading some to wonder whether he is unhappy about his current contract situation.

Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com reports that GM Thomas Dimitroff is not worried about any of that and believes that the relationship between player and team is in a good place. Jones has not made any public comments about his contract, though his average salary of $14.25MM is now sixth in the league. He signed a five-year, $71.25MM extension in August 2015 that made him the second-highest paid wideout in the NFL at the time — behind only Calvin Johnson — so he is under club control for another three seasons.

Dimitroff said, “Julio and the organization are doing very well. I’m not concerned one bit about any of the social media. I think we’re in a great spot. He had very good discussions with [head coach] Dan [Quinn]. And we’re in a great spot.” With respect to Jones’ absence from team workouts, Dimitroff said, “They’re voluntary, of course. Again, we feel very comfortable with where we are with Julio and how he perceives everything.”

It is unclear as to when Jones plans to rejoin his teammates, but as McClure observes, if Jones does not report for the Falcons’ mandatory minicamp in June, then there will be cause for concern. For now, however, Atlanta brass does not seem too worried, and Jones is expected to mentor the team’s newest addition to an excellent wide receiving corps, Calvin Ridley.

Jones was brilliant again in 2017, posting 88 catches for 1,444 yards (though he did manage just three scores). That marked the fourth consecutive year he cracked 1,400 received yards, and he has been named to five Pro Bowls in his seven-year career, including two first-team All-Pro nods. If he wants to talk contract, one has to imagine the Falcons will listen.

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