Julio Jones

Falcons’ Julio Jones Won’t Play Vs. Saints

Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones is inactive for tonight’s game against the Saints, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. The Falcons ruled Jones out after testing his shoulder strength and it’s not immediately clear whether he’ll be able to play in Week 14 against the Panthers either. 

Jones’ right shoulder will cause him to miss his first regular season game since the 2016 season. Through eleven games this year, Jones has reeled in 64 catches for 950 yards and four touchdowns – good numbers in spite of the Falcons’ overall woes.

After signing Jones to a three-year, $66MM extension in September, the Falcons would probably like to play it safe with Jones and keep him out of action, since the playoffs are out of reach. That’s unlikely to fly with the multiple-time Pro Bowler, however.

Jones’ unprecedented contract is fully guaranteed, with all but $2MM being completely locked down at the time of signing. After years of pushing for an extension, Jones set a new benchmark at his position and passed his previous AAV of $14.25MM – good for just 12th among wideouts – on a rocket ship.

The Falcons figure to overhaul their team in the offseason, but Jones will remain the face of the club for years to come.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

South Notes: White, Newton, Julio, Jags

Devin White left Thursday night’s game before the lightning delay hit, but the rookie Buccaneers linebacker appears to have dodged a long-term injury. Bruce Arians said (via ESPN.com’s Jenna Laine) the No. 5 overall pick suffered a grade 1 MCL sprain. While it would seem White is in danger of at least missing the Bucs’ Week 3 game against the Giants, Arians would not rule out an immediate return.

Here is the latest from the South divisions, moving first to the Bucs’ Week 2 opponent:

  • Ron Rivera denied Cam Newton is experiencing issues with the foot he injured during preseason play or his surgically repaired shoulder. The Panthers have now lost two home games, and Newton has not played especially well in either. He completed 48% of his passes on Thursday and did not fare well against Bucs blitzes. Prior to Newton’s shoulder injury last season, he had the Panthers on track for another playoff berth and was on a better statistical run than his 2016 or ’17 slates. Now 0-2, the team will have an uphill battle to make it back to the postseason. The 30-year-old passer is signed through the 2020 season.
  • Nick Martin‘s three-year, $33MM Texans extension features fully guaranteed salaries ($6.1MM and $7.25MM) for the 2019 and ’20 seasons and a $5MM signing bonus, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle tweets. The Texans center’s 2021 and ’22 base salaries of $7.25MM and $7.75MM are non-guaranteed.
  • Julio Jones‘ three-year, $66MM Falcons extension came with $64MM in guarantees, which outpaces every other wide receiver’s deal by a staggering margin. Jones’ pact also could bump up to $72MM, with Joel Corry of CBS Sports tweeting the 30-year-old wideout’s deal has annual escalators. It’s not yet known what benchmarks Jones would have to hit to trigger those, however.
  • Jaguars left tackle Cam Robinson has received clearance to make his season debut, but Doug Marrone said (via ESPN.com’s Michael DiRocco, on Twitter) the third-year blocker will be held out against the Texans. It would appear Robinson, who is dealing with a different knee problem than to the ACL tear he suffered last season, will be on track to return to his post in Week 3. He has not played since September 2018. Due to a hamstring malady, Yannick Ngakoue is also out for the Jags this week.
  • The Texans worked out cornerbacks Jeremy Clark, Rodney Randle and D.J. White, per veteran NFL reporter Howard Balzer (on Twitter). Houston made a cornerback roster swap this week, releasing Aaron Colvin and signing Phillip Gaines.

Falcons, Julio Jones Agree To Three-Year Extension

At long last, it sounds like the Falcons and wideout Julio Jones have agreed to a contract extension. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports (via Twitter) have agreed to a three-year, $66MM extension. The unprecedented deal is fully-guaranteed and includes $64MM due at signing.

Earlier today, NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero reported (via Twitter) that the two sides were finalizing a deal that would make Jones the highest-paid receiver in the league. NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport tweeted that the deal was expected to be a three-year pact worth around $66MM.

Jones is now setting a new benchmark at the position. Saints Pro Bowler Michael Thomas leads wideouts with an average annual value of $19.25MM, following by Browns receiver Odell Beckham Jr. at $18MM. Jones had been pushing for an extension for several seasons, with his previous AAV ($14.25MM) ranking only 12th among wideouts.

Since Jones is heading into his age-30 season, his extension is a bit more complicated than the deals signed by Thomas and Beckham. Still, the nine-year pro was apparently able to set a new standard at the position, even if it’s only for a handful of years. The $64MM that’s due at signing is also a record-setter; 97-percent of Jones’ contract is guaranteed at signing, while the previous high for a non-QB (according to Schefter) belonged to Trey Flowers, who got 74-percent guaranteed at signing.

The two sides had been discussing an extension for months, with recent reports indicating that a deal was close. Jones didn’t hold out from minicamp nor training camp, while owner Arthur Blank consistently expressed optimism that they’d sign the receiver to a long-term deal. The front office has also been working on clearing up cap space, with many assuming the money would end up going to Jones.

The former first-rounder has certainly established himself as one of the best players at his position. Jones’ 7,994 receiving yards since the 2014 season are the most any player has ever compiled in a five-year span, and he finished last season with 113 receptions for a league-leading 1,677 receiving yards and eight touchdowns.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Falcons, Julio Jones

The Falcons and Julio Jones appear to be on the verge of their long-discussed extension agreement, but no deal is done. This is not a situation where the team is waiting to announce it, either, with Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk noting the sides have not finalized a contract.

Arthur Blank confirmed this new agreement will make Jones the league’s highest-paid receiver and considers the possibility of a deal not being finalized by Week 1 (and Jones perhaps missing that game) “remote.” It’s just not known by how much. Michael Thomas signed for $19.25MM per year earlier this summer.

I’m optimistic that we’ll get something done, so I’m not going to focus on something that I consider a remote possibility,’’ Blank said of Jones missing the game, via Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com. “There’s no obstacle, per se. When you’re talking about a contract for that much money over that period of time for a premier, outstanding player, it’s just very complicated. It’s not cut and dry.”

The two-time first-team All-Pro wideout did not hold out from Falcons minicamp or training camp, so it would obviously mark a course change if Jones missed Sunday’s game against the Vikings. A new contract would eliminate any mystery here, and it sounds like there’s a better chance of Jones signing one before then than not.

Jones going into his age-30 season, his ninth in the NFL, makes this deal more complicated than the ones given to younger stars like Thomas or Odell Beckham Jr. the past two summers. But the team has been clear about wanting Julio Jones to follow Grady Jarrett and Deion Jones in Blank’s “Falcons for life” vision. The Falcons freed up $5MM in cap space earlier Wednesday, further setting the table for Jones’ next deal — expected to eclipse the $20MM-AAV barrier.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Falcons Create Room For Julio Jones Deal

The Falcons are “very, very close” to an extension for Julio Jones, owner Arthur Blank tells Jeff Schultz of TheAthletic.com (on Twitter). Of course, this is roughly what we’ve been hearing all summer, but it’s worth noting since we are days away from the start of the season and it is coming directly from the owner’s mouth. 

Furthermore, the Falcons have created some additional breathing room that may give them the cap space necessary to re-up their star wide receiver. The team completed simple contract restructurings with left tackle Jake Matthews and safety Ricardo Allen, according to Tom Pelissero and Mike Garafolo of NFL Network (on Twitter) to carve out another $5MM.

We’ve been here many times before, but this time, it feels real. In all likelihood, Jones will have a brand new deal by the end of the week that will put him at or near the top of the WR heap in the NFL.

Extra Points: CBA, Clowney, Julio, Butt

As expected based on the past several weeks of talks, there will be no new collective bargaining agreement before Week 1. The parties’ latest round of discussions ended this week without much movement, and Tom Pelissero of NFL.com notes no more meetings are currently scheduled. The owners continue to push for an 18-game season, while the players want a greater revenue share than their 47% figure without adding any additional regular-season contests. But the sides have made progress on issues like increased league-minimum salaries and health and safety components, Pelissero adds. With NFL-NFLPA meetings more difficult to arrange during the season, due to players’ focuses shifting to game preparation, there is now an increased possibility we will get to 2020 without a new CBA in place. That would mean final-year-of-a-CBA rules going into place. This CBA expires after the 2020 season.

Here is the latest from around the league, as rosters continue to take shape leading up to Saturday’s cutdown:

  • It continues to look less and less likely Jadeveon Clowney will wear a Texans uniform again. A bevy of teams are interested, even if a Clowney-to-Miami proposition has hit snags on multiple fronts. Bill O’Brien, who was reported to be against a Clowney extension before this year’s franchise tag deadline, said he will reconvene with Clowney if he signs his tag tender, per Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (on Twitter). Clowney has now threatened to miss regular-season time.
  • We are now less than nine days away from the Falcons‘ opener, and it could put Julio Jones to a decision. The All-Pro wideout did not skip training camp but he would soon be set to play in games on the league’s 13th-highest-AAV receiver deal. Thomas Dimitroff said (via Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com) the team believes this process is “very close” to being completed. Jones’ current deal runs through the 2020 season.
  • Jake Butt has endured another setback. The Broncos tight end who has undergone three reconstructive ACL surgeries will have another knee procedure soon, James Palmer of NFL.com tweets. This will be a minor surgery on Butt’s left knee, that was operated on last year. At this point, it should be considered a safe bet Butt will land on the Broncos’ IR list. The Broncos have the former All-American under contract through 2020 and could give him another medical redshirt year of sorts by placing him on IR before finalizing their roster. Butt missed most of Denver’s preseason work.
  • The Texans may have their backup quarterback back soon. A.J. McCarron has resumed throwing, per Wilson, pointing to the longtime Bengals QB2 being available in Week 1. McCarron has been dealing with a thumb injury for most of August. Houston signed McCarron to a one-year, $3MM deal to be Deshaun Watson‘s backup.

Latest On Falcons, Julio Jones

Despite the Saints striking first with their Michael Thomas extension nearly a month ago, the Falcons and their No. 1 wide receiver remain in talks. Jones has been unhappy with his deal for many months, missing workouts in the 2018 and ’19 offseasons. While he is tethered to the extension he signed in 2015 — now 13th in AAV — Jones reported to camp and continues to be Atlanta’s top priority.

The Falcons, who extended Deion Jones and Grady Jarrett in July, want to have their 30-year-old superstar signed by Week 1. But Arthur Blank is not certain that will happen.

I would hope so, but I don’t know that,” Blank said, via D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, of an extension being finalized within the next two weeks. “We’ll have to let things take their course. I know that we are definitely in serious negotiations. It’s our goal and their goal as well to get it done before the start of the season.”

Jones’ agent, Jimmy Sexton, met with Falcons brass last week. Despite Jones’ production and Hall of Fame trajectory, this process may be a bit more complicated because of where the 2011 first-rounder is in his career. This will be Jones’ age-30 season; he is older than all but two of the wideouts (Antonio Brown and A.J. Green) who currently out-earn him. Jones is almost certain not to sign for anything less than Thomas received.

The negotiations continue to move along in a positive way,” Blank said, reiterating he wants Jones to finish his career in Atlanta. “It’s a big contract and it’s complex and what have you. It takes a little more time than we’d like. Probably a little more time than he would like, but I know we are in a good place.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Falcons Meet With Julio Jones’ Agent

The Falcons and Julio Jones could once again be ready to make progress on a new contract. On Wednesday, the wide receiver confirmed that his agent, Jimmy Sexton, is in town to discuss an extension with the club (via D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution). 

Throughout the summer, we’ve heard that the Falcons and Jones were on the verge of a deal. The belief was that Jones’ contract would be signed just as soon as the ink dried on Michael Thomasnew pact worth up to $100MM, but three weeks have passed since the Saints star secured the bag.

For his part, Jones has remained patient and played the part of a good soldier by reporting for duty in July.

Mr. Blank gave us his word. … That’s golden,” Jones said in June“His word is that it’s going to get done. … There’s no stress on my end. I’m not thinking about it. [Blank] makes it easy for me to go out and just work every day and not have one of those situations where there’s a holdout or anything like that.”

Jones’ 7,994 receiving yards since the 2014 season are the most any player has ever compiled in a five-year span. A new deal would be expected to position Jones as one of the highest-paid wide receivers in the NFL in multiple categories.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC South Notes: Rankins, Julio, Stewart

Let’s check out a few items from the NFC South:

  • Sheldon Rankins is the only player on the Saints‘ PUP list at the moment, but Amie Just of the Times-Picayune suggests that he may remain there when the regular season starts, which would automatically rule him out for the first six games of the season. Head coach Sean Payton said Rankins is ahead of schedule in his recovery from an Achilles tear he suffered in the playoffs, but Payton conceded that Rankins is likely to miss all of training camp at least. It sounds as if Payton is expecting Rankins to miss some regular season time as well, though he could not give a precise timeline. We heard back in April that Rankins was likely to start the season on the PUP list, though there now appears to be some hope he can avoid it.
  • It’s now been over a year since the Falcons and Julio Jones renegotiated his contract, as Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com observes. That means that the two sides are free to make a new deal official, though McClure still does not think it will happen before Michael Thomas signs his extension with New Orleans.
  • Buccaneers second-year player M.J. Stewart, a second-round pick in the 2018 draft, spent most of his rookie campaign at cornerback. GM Jason Licht said in March that he wanted Stewart to play safety, but as Greg Auman of The Athletic says, the team has reversed course. Per Auman, Stewart is back at corner, and he will compete for the fifth CB job that is currently available after Ryan Smith‘s suspension (Twitter links).

Falcons Notes: Julio, Neal, Allen, Smith

We learned earlier today that the Falcons may already have a new deal in place for star receiver Julio Jones, but GM Thomas Dimitroff declined to put a timetable on the negotiations. As Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com writes, Dimitroff did express optimism that the two sides would reach an accord.

Dimitroff said, “[w]e have the utmost faith that Julio is coming here and he’s taking care of his business while he’s here, and we’ll keep plugging away with [Jones’ agent] Jimmy [Sexton]. We have a very good working relationship and respect for Jimmy Sexton and CAA, and I’m confident [the deal] will get done.”

Sexton could not be reached for comment, but after getting long-term deals for Grady Jarrett and Deion Jones done this month, it looks like the Falcons will give Julio Jones his new contract in short order.

Now for more from Atlanta:

  • We heard back in May that the Falcons’ starting safety tandem of Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen, who suffered major injuries that ended their 2018 seasons prematurely, were expected to be ready for training camp, and that turned out to be true. As Ledbetter writes, Allen returned to the practice field Monday and went through most of the team drills, and Emmanuel Morgan of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution says that Neal has participated in drills and has taken reps with the first-team defense. Unfortunately, the club lost backup safety J.J. Wilcox for the season after he tore his ACL on Monday.
  • The Falcons plan to expand RB Ito Smith‘s role this season, as Morgan writes in a separate piece. Smith will serve as the club’s No. 2 back behind Devonta Freeman, and he will look to improve his pass protection and his ability to hit holes at full speed while continuing to refine his abilities as a pass catcher. Running backs coach Matt Brock hinted that the club may only carry three RBs, so the battle for the No. 3 spot behind Freeman and Smith is one that he expects to be highly competitive.
  • Defensive lineman Michael Bennett suffered a broken ankle on Monday, but he could return this season, as D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweets.
  • The Falcons signed veteran DL Allen Bailey yesterday.