Julio Jones

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.

Deal In Place For Falcons, Julio Jones?

The Falcons and Julio Jones are working on a long-term extension, but depending on who you ask, that deal might already be in place. Multiple league sources “firmly believe that the Falcons already have a wink-nod deal in place” with the wide receiver, according to PFT’s Mike Florio.

[RELATED: Latest On Saints, Thomas]

Those sources believe that Jones’ deal will be finalized on Friday, the one-year anniversary of Jones’ last re-up with the team. The deal, which should position Jones as one of the highest-paid wide receivers in the league, by at least a couple of metrics, may impact the talks between the Saints and star Michael Thomas.

Jones is reporting to Falcons camp, despite the absence of a new deal. The optimism he expressed earlier this summer may be an indication that a deal is not far off.

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.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Julio Jones Reports To Falcons Camp

The highest-profile of the Falcons’ extension candidates will not wage a holdout. Julio Jones is still attached to the extension he signed in 2015, but the All-Pro wide receiver has reported to Falcons training camp, Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com tweets.

Jones has expressed optimism this offseason he and the Falcons will come to terms on an extension, one that could well be a market-reshaping pact, and attended Atlanta’s minicamp. Still, the 30-year-old star showing up in advance of Atlanta’s camp is a good sign.

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.”

The Falcons have done well to advance their offseason blueprint this week, having signed both Grady Jarrett and Deion Jones to extensions. Both are now under contract through at least the 2022 season. While Julio Jones and the Falcons have been at this for a while, there still appears to be considerable ground to cover.

Jones’ 7,994 receiving yards since the 2014 season are the most any NFLer has ever compiled in a five-year span. He is almost certainly gunning to be the game’s first $20MM-per-year wideout. After early-career injury trouble, Jones has played in 16 games in three of the past four seasons and only missed three contests over the past five years.

Extensions for Michael Thomas, Amari Cooper and possibly A.J. Green look to be on hold while the Falcons negotiate with their more accomplished receiver.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Falcons’ Talks With Julio Jones, Deion Jones

Now that the Falcons have agreed to an extension with Grady Jarrett, negotiations with Julio Jones and Deion Jones stand to pick up. The franchise will continue to talk with its extension-seeking Joneses.

Deion Jones’ agent, Drew Rosenhaus, will meet with Falcons brass on Wednesday in Atlanta, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. Jones and the Falcons have been discussing an extension since early March.

Although there is less clarity on the Julio Jones front, Ian Rapoport tweets the All-Pro wide receiver now becomes the Falcons’ top contract priority. However, a Deion Jones deal may beat this process to the finish line. Julio Jones and the Falcons still appear to have a ways to go before finalizing a deal.

Both Joneses reported to Falcons minicamp in June, and Julio expressed optimism he and the Falcons would have a new deal in place soon. Arthur Blank has said he wants both players, along with Jarrett, to be “Falcons for life.” Deion Jones has one season (at just more than $1MM) remaining on his rookie deal, while Julio Jones is signed through 2020 on his second Falcons contract. Julio’s third contract, whenever it is completed, stands to have a major impact on other extension-seeking wideouts.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Julio Jones Will Attend Training Camp

Falcons wideout Julio Jones reported to his team’s minicamp last month, a clear indication that he won’t hold out as he pursues a new contract. The Pro Bowl receiver reiterated this sentiment to TMZ.com, saying he trusts owner Arthur Blank and won’t miss training camp.

“Mr. Blank gave us his word. . . . That’s golden,” Jones said (via Darin Gantt of ProFootballTalk.com). “[Blank’s] 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.”

Blank had previously said he expects Jones (along with teammates Grady Jarrett and Deion Jones) to be “Falcons for life.” There had been reports of progress on the Jones front throughout the offseason, but with two years remaining on the receiver’s contract, the organization may be patient as they work to extend their offensive star. The lack of an new contract hasn’t prevented Jones from participating in team workouts; while he skipped OTAs for a second-straight year, the 30-year-old attended minicamp last month.

Jones has been pushing for a new contract since the 2018 offseason — before Odell Beckham Jr. signed his five-year, $90MM deal. Beckham’s $18MM-per-year pact and Antonio Brown‘s redone deal — which reset his APY figure to $19.8MM — lead the receiver market. Jones will presumably be looking to approach those marks, with our own Zach Links recently suggesting a three-year extension that adds $60MM in new money to his pact.

Going into his ninth season, Jones is coming off his sixth Pro Bowl slate and second-highest single-season yardage total. He posted a 1,677-yard season in 2018, leading the league in receiving but falling short of a third first-team All-Pro honor.

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Latest On Falcons, Julio Jones

With another NFC South wide receiver accelerating the market, the division’s long-reigning pass-catching kingpin remains in talks with the Falcons about what would be his second contract extension.

Michael Thomas may not end up signing until Julio Jones resets the market, and the Falcons are confident they will have a new deal with Jones by the time they reconvene for training camp, Dianna Russini of ESPN.com tweets.

After skipping Falcons OTAs for a second straight year, the 30-year-old wideout reported to Falcons minicamp. Reports of progress on this front have emerged for weeks now, pointing to Jones becoming the NFL’s new highest-paid receiver. Two years remain on his 2015 extension, but Jones has lobbied for a new contract since the 2018 offseason — before Odell Beckham Jr. signed his five-year, $90MM deal. Beckham’s $18MM-per-year pact and Antonio Brown‘s redone deal — which reset his APY figure to $19.8MM — lead the receiver market.

Going into his ninth season, Jones is coming off his sixth Pro Bowl slate and second-highest single-season yardage total. He posted a 1,677-yard season in 2018, leading the league in receiving but falling short of a third first-team All-Pro honor. The Falcons, though, clearly view him as a cornerstone part of their hopeful resurgence and look set to reward Jones for his years of top-flight WR1 play.

The Falcons hold barely $6MM in cap space but could add to that figure by completing a Grady Jarrett deal. The standout defensive tackle is attached to a $15.2MM cap number. Arthur Blank said last month he envisioned Julio Jones, Jarrett and contract-year linebacker Deion Jones as “Falcons for life.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extension Candidate: Julio Jones

After skipping voluntary OTAs, Falcons star Julio Jones reported for the team’s mandatory minicamp earlier this month. There’s clear mutual interest in a new deal, but Jones’ situation is trickier than most. 

Jones is one of the league’s most accomplished wide receivers, but figuring out a multi-year extension for a 30-year-old skill player is never easy. He’s topped 1,400 receiving yards in each of the last five seasons, but it’s hard to bank on his speed holding up across multiple seasons.

Still, Jones led the league with 1,677 receiving yards in 2018 and continues to draw double coverage from overwhelmed defenses on a regular basis. And, while his contract has two more years to go, the Falcons cannot risk a rift – or a holdout – with their most potent offensive weapon.

A fresh deal for Jones would likely take him through the end of his career, but what would such an add-on look like? Currently, Jones’ salary has him ranked just 12th among wide receivers with an average annual value of $14.25MM. Making Jones No. 1 in AAV would mean vaulting him ahead of Antonio Brown‘s $19.8MM/year and Odell Beckham Jr.’s $18MM/year, which should be doable for the Falcons. However, Jones is unlikely to match the length of OBJ’s contract or, more importantly, the guarantees.

Beckham’s five-year, $90MM extension granted him $65MM in total guarantees and a whopping $41MM guaranteed at signing. Jones, who is already under contract through his age 32 season, is probably looking at no more than an additional three years. From there, you can expect a hefty signing bonus, and a decent sum scheduled for Year One of the new deal, but it’s unrealistic to expect the Falcons to ensure $41MM to the aging superstar.

So, how can the two sides reach an accord that is satisfactory for everyone? Recently, Joel Corry of CBSSports.com suggested the following:

  • Length: Three years
  • New money total: $60MM (Bringing total remaining value to $81MM over five years)
  • Signing bonus: $25MM
  • Guaranteed money: $50.526MM
  • Fully guaranteed at signing: $37.526MM

Ultimately, that amounts to a $20MM average annual value, allowing Jones to edge Brown and OBJ in that category. Meanwhile, the Falcons preserve some flexibility, as Jones’ total guarantees would be $14.475MM shy of OBJ’s.

A new deal for Jones and the Falcons seems like an inevitability, but it will be interesting to see when they get it done, how they get it done, and what the cashflow of the extension looks like.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Julio Jones, Rest Of Falcons In Camp

Led by star receiver Julio Jones, all players who did not attend Falcons OTAs arrived for the first day on minicamp, the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport tweets

That list includes the recently franchise-tagged Grady Jarrett, defensive end Vic Beasley and linebacker Deion Jones.

In addition to arriving for mandatory minicamp, Julio Jones is not worried about his contract and is sure a new deal will get done, ESPN’s Vaughn McClure writes.

“The situation will get handled. It’s just a matter of time when they’re going to do it. Mr. Blank has spoken, so what more do I need to say or talk about?” Jones said.

McClure notes that in addition to a reworked deal for the pass-catcher, the Falcons also hope to sign Jarrett and Deion Jones to extensions. In addition to Julio not worried about his deal getting done, Falcons owner Arthur Blank sounds just as confident.

“I’m not worried about getting the deals done. I’m speaking on behalf of Atlanta and Atlanta fans. [General manager] Thomas [Dimitroff] is working hard to get them done. Coach [Dan] Quinn is supportive, as well. It will happen. It’s just a matter of when,” Blank said.

Though he did arrive at the three-day minicamp, Julio will not be participating due to a foot injury. Jones is coming off his fifth consecutive 1,400-yard campaign and led the league with 1,677 receiving yards in 2018.

Latest On Falcons’ Extension Candidates

For a second straight offseason, the subject of Julio Jones‘ contract has been a key offseason Falcons talking point. But next week, the All-Pro wide receiver will be with the team when it conducts its minicamp.

Dan Quinn confirmed (via The Athletic’s Jeff Schultz, on Twitter) the ninth-year receiver will show for minicamp, which begins June 11. So will fourth-year defensive end Vic Beasley. It is not yet certain if franchise-tagged defensive tackle Grady Jarrett will join them, though Quinn anticipates he will. Skipping mandatory minicamp would cost the trio nearly $90K each.

Regardless of the statuses of Jones, Jarrett and fellow extension candidate Deion Jones, the Falcons expect to re-sign all three. He did not specify a plan for Beasley, who joined the group in staying away from Falcons OTAs.

We have a salary cap. We have limits that we have to think about not only today but tomorrow, and we have to balance all that off,” Falcons owner Arthur Blank said, via Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com. “But these are three great young men that we care deeply about, both personally and professionally. They are going to be Falcons for life.

I’m not worried about getting the deals done. I’m speaking on behalf of Atlanta and Atlanta fans. Thomas [Dimitroff] is working hard to get them done. Coach Quinn is supportive as well. It will happen. It’s just a matter of when.”

A new deal for Jones has been rumored for weeks now, and it will almost certainly make the 30-year-old receiver the league’s new highest-paid player at the position. Two seasons remain on the five-year, $71.25MM extension he signed in 2015. Jarrett is tethered to a $15.2MM franchise tag. Jones would have the most to gain by signing an extension before the season. The former second-round pick’s rookie deal pays him just $1.45MM. The Falcons picked up Beasley’s fifth-year option (worth $12.8MM) last year.

The Falcons, though, are light on cap space ($6.5MM, the fifth-lowest figure at the moment), so it will take some work to fulfill Blank’s vision.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.