It has been bubbling under the surface for a while now but finally on Monday the Julio Jones issue came to a head. News broke Monday that Jones will not be attending the Falcons mandatory minicamp. Jones is not the first person to do this and he will not be the last. Seemingly every year the NFL goes crazy over players not reporting to their teams. As always money is the issue as Jones has seen a number of receivers jump in front of him in terms of contract worth.
What does Jones mean to the Falcons?
This holdout is not insignificant for the Falcons as this is a big year for them. The second year under a new offensive coordinator is always important. Not having your number one receiver can be a real issue in taking that next step. The Falcons defense is shaping up to be really good, and if the offense can recapture even some of its 2016 form then they could really push for a return to the SuperBowl. For them to do that Jones will have to be a big piece. Here are Jones’ career statistics.
As you can see Jones has been over 1,000 yards five times in his career. In each of the last four years he has topped over 1,400. He is a top receiver and the Falcons need him at his best if they are to have a shot to win it all.
Why this is actually OK
Jones had a full year in the Sarkisian system and things are not going to alter massively this offseason. Jones knows his role and when he returns he should be able to slot straight back in to the number one role. This minicamp now presents an opportunity for Ryan to work with his other guys. He can spend time getting Mohammed Sanu, Calvin Ridley, Justin Hardy and Austin Hooper on the same page as him. With Jones not there he does not have to worry about upsetting his number one target.
In a way this is a good experiment for the Falcons. Jones has missed just three games in four years but injuries can strike at any time. The Falcons cannot afford to just write off this season if Jones was to go down. Therefore, this give them an opportunity to run with someone else in Jones’ spot and get a feel for that offense. In the long run this minicamp could be the making of the Falcons season.
What this means for Jones
Straight off the back he is getting fined in total somewhere around $80,000 for missing minicamp. That is fairly insignificant to a guy earning over $10 million and if he ends up getting a pay increase of upwards of $5 million then it really is elementary. Missing three days of light practice is going to do him no damage either. Another good element for Jones is that the Falcons are having discussions with his representatives. This means they are not shut off from doing a deal and they are not just going to cut bait.
The final word
This situation is not really a surprise quite honestly. It was reported in May that he wanted a new contract. He now sits behind eight other receivers in terms of contract worth. Names like Jarvis Landry, Sammy Watkins and Davante Adams being above him tells you his contract is too low. Jones deserves to be paid similarly to names like Antonio Brown, Mike Evans and DeAndre Hopkins. I find these things tiresome and I am hugely of the opinion of honor your contract but I do understand. Jones knows that the Falcons may have a two or three yearr window to win a SuperBowl, while their defense is young and cheap. After that he may become expendable and his current contract makes it easy for the Falcons to cut bait.
In addition, he has also just seen his quarterback get paid $30 million a year with $100 million in guarantees. You cannot really blame him for wanting his share of the wealth. Ultimately I think the Falcons find a way to get this done despite not having much cap room. Receivers like Jones do not come around often and the Falcons will not want to enter preseason with this hanging over them. However, for now this is a distraction but for Matt Ryan and the offense it is not the end of the world. Ryan has his connection with Jones and now he can build better connections with his other main targets.