Julio Jones

Arthur Blank: Matt Ryan, Julio Jones Will Be With Falcons In 2021

Earlier this week, we heard the Falcons are not taking calls on Matt Ryan and that they expect his top weapon to remain in the fold as well. Falcons owner Arthur Blank confirmed that Ryan and Julio Jones will be part of Arthur Smith‘s first Falcons roster.

Well, I’d be shocked, completely shocked if he was not, and it really has nothing to do necessarily with his contract,” Blank said of the prospect Ryan would not be a Falcon in 2021, via Andrew Siciliano of NFL.com. “… He’s performed beautifully, was MVP of the league one year. So Matt can still play at a very high level and we expect him to be a Falcon next year, fully.

We expect Julio to be a Falcon, to be playing next year at a very high level as well. God-willing, taking care of his body, his hamstring will be healed up. He’ll be able to play in more games than he played last year. So they’ll both be with us.”

The QB trade market recently produced a blockbuster, with Matthew Stafford going to the Rams in exchange for Jared Goff and three draft picks. Ryan resides in a similar position to Stafford. He has been with his team for over a decade (13 years) but has seen it decline to point it holds a high draft pick. Like the Lions, the Falcons also hired a new head coach and GM. However, Ryan both signed for more money on his most recent extension — in 2018 — and restructured his deal to further pile up money on Atlanta’s cap going forward. A Ryan trade would cost the Falcons more than $40MM. Three seasons remain on Jones’ $22MM-per-year deal.

Blank, however, acknowledged the prospect of a succession plan. The Falcons hold the No. 4 overall pick — their highest draft slot since they used 2008’s No. 3 overall choice to select Ryan — and will see their longtime starter turn 36 this year. The owner referencing the Chiefs’ successful (but rarely utilized) QB developmental model perhaps points to the Falcons being in the market for a passer at No. 4.

In any business, including professional football or any sports business, you do have to prepare for succession planning, and that’s what separates a lot of great organizations that are great over a longer period of time because they think through, how do they continue to stay at the level they’re at,” Blank said.

A good example is what Kansas City has done when they drafted Patrick Mahomes, who came out of a very high-scoring offense in college but needed to go through a professional transition. He played behind Alex Smith for a year, a great competitor, a great quarterback, a great mentor, and he learned a lot, so he’s producing now at a much higher level and he’s had a healthy transition. So I think you have to think about long-term while you think about winning today. That’s what good coaches and what good general managers do.”

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Falcons Not Expected To Trade Matt Ryan, Julio Jones

With Matthew Stafford off the market, teams interested in acquiring other accomplished quarterbacks may not need to look toward Atlanta. Last weekend’s Lions-Rams blockbuster shows nothing can be completely ruled out, but the Falcons are not looking to part ways with either of their two cornerstone players this year.

The Falcons have not engaged in any trade talks regarding Matt Ryan or Julio Jones, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (video link). Both Falcon stars are expected to be part of Arthur Smith‘s first Atlanta squad.

Ryan stands in an interesting situation. He will be set to play for a third head coach, but Smith will be the first offense-geared leader to lead the Falcons in Ryan’s tenure. The Falcons also hold the highest draft choice they have possessed since drafting Ryan in 2008, presenting a prime opportunity to acquire the 35-year-old passer’s successor. Regardless of how Atlanta proceeds with the No. 4 overall pick, Ryan’s lucrative contract is expected to remain on the franchise’s 2021 payroll.

Despite Jones’ 10th NFL season halting his historic run of production, thanks to hamstring trouble that kept him out for much of the 2020 slate, the future Hall of Famer would obviously generate trade interest. But the Falcons gave him a market-topping extension in 2019. His 2021 base salary ($15.3MM) is fully guaranteed. The Falcons would be tagged with a greater dead-money sum — in excess of $40MM — if they were to move Ryan. Another Ryan restructure could be on tap; the 13-year veteran’s 2021 cap figure sits at $40.9MM.

With a salary cap drop expected in March, the Falcons are already projected to be well over the estimated ceiling. GM Terry Fontenot‘s new team is not in the kind of cap hell the Saints are, but the Falcons are one of five other teams — as of Groundhog Day — who project to be over the cap by more than $30MM. While the cap may not drop to the agreed-upon $175MM floor, the Falcons will certainly help themselves by not trading Ryan and Jones this year.

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Falcons’ Julio Jones Ruled Out Vs. Raiders

Julio Jones has been ruled out for today’s game against the Raiders, the Falcons announced. The wide receiver was forced out of last week’s game against the Saints with tightness in his left hamstring and his condition has not gotten much better. 

The Falcons are 3-7 heading into today’s contest, so they don’t have much on the line for the rest of this year. Many would argue that there’s little sense in rushing Jones back to the field this year, but they’d have a hard time convincing the veteran to sit out. The Falcons will have a chance to avenge their 24-9 loss to the Saints next week and Jones will surely be chomping at the bit.

Jones, 31, has caught 45 passes for 677 yards and three touchdowns across eight games this season. It’s a far cry from his usual stat line, though we’ve seen glimpses of Jones at his best. In the season opener, Jones managed nine grabs for 157 yards in a losing effort against the Seahawks. And, just a few weeks ago, Jones went off for seven catches and 137 yards as the Falcons topped the Panthers.

The Falcons have Jones under contract through 2023 thanks to the three-year, $66MM re-up he signed last year.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Trade Rumors: Giants, Ryan, Fuller

After dealing Markus Golden to the Cardinals, it appears the 1-6 Giants have officially declared themselves sellers at this year’s trade deadline. Though GM Dave Gettleman may be reluctant to trade away veteran talent that could theoretically help Big Blue win a few games — and perhaps save Gettleman’s job in the process — players like Evan Engram, Kevin Zeitler, and Golden Tate could be available, as Ryan Dunleavy of the New York Post writes (though Ian Rapoport of NFL.com says the club is unlikely to deal Engram).

2017 second-round DT Dalvin Tomlinson could also be on the move, per Dunleavy. Tomlinson is playing out the last year of his rookie contract, and while he has expressed interest in staying with the Giants long-term, there has been little progress in contract talks.

As we creep closer to the November 3 deadline, let’s round up a few more trade rumors from around the league:

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.

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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.

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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.