Take a deep breath, Atlanta Falcons fans.
On his day, Julio Jones is arguably the best receiver in the NFL. Of course, his healthy always seems to get in the way. But right now, what’s holding up his presence at the team’s mandatory minicamp are ongoing contract talks. Per ESPN’s Vaughn McClure, Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff confirms that Jones won’t be there for that very reason.
“We have been in contact with Julio and his representation,” Dimitroff starts. “We will not discuss those conversations publicly except to say we feel they have been productive and constructive.”
That said, it’s normal for Falcons fans to worry. After all, this is Matt Ryan’s primary weapon we’re talking about. But Dimitroff wants to assure each and every one of them that things are going well.
“We understand the concerns and thoughts from their perspective. Although not ideal, Julio informed us today he would not be attending mini-camp,” he continues. “We have much respect for him and what he means to our team, our city and our fans.”
As it stands, Jones has three years and nearly $35 million remaining on his contract. But there are seven other receivers in the league that are currently on a bigger average salary than he is. Let’s not pretend Jones isn’t aware of that. In the meantime, he’s coming off another great season for the Falcons — piling up 1,444 yards on 88 receptions. However, opposing defenses would only let him into the endzone three times this past season. And despite consistently being an injury worry, Jones has played in 14 or more games in each of the past four years.
Needless to say, the Falcons need him if they are to make any noise. Especially in the postseason. In the four seasons since a devastating injury limited him to just five games (2013), Jones has averaged 103 catches, 1,579 yards and six scores per campaign. For Matt Ryan, he’s as threateningly consistent as they come. And for opposing defenses, he’s an absolute nightmare.
Expect the Falcons to do everything they can to keep Jones happy. Plus, they’re coming off a 10-6 2017 that ended with an early playoff exit. With Jones at his happiest, it’s not difficult to see the Falcons take that next step once again. Even if they have to deal with the likes of New Orleans and Carolina.