Julio Jones: Atlanta Falcons should extend him sooner rather than later


Julio Jones is the star of the Atlanta Falcons’ offense; they shouldn’t delay on giving the playmaker a contract extension. 

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Jones is set to become a free agent at the end of the 2015 NFL season, and the Falcons would be smart to get a new deal inked as soon as possible.

After four seasons in Atlanta, Jones has caught 278 passes for 4,330 yards and 26 touchdowns.

His impressive performances have earned him two Pro Bowl honors — the first in 2012 and then again in 2014.

Per Vaughn McClure of ESPN, who spoke with former agent Joel Corry, the Falcons may be a little more patient in regards to an extension:

"“What the Falcons may want to do is take a wait-and-see approach to see if Dez Bryant [Cowboys] or Demaryius Thomas [Broncos] can get a deal done and let that kind of really define Julio’s market. Or maybe if Cincinnati does something with A.J. Green. The Falcons don’t have to rush and they don’t really need the cap room. If they were in a pinch for cap room, then there would be a lot more urgency to do something,” said Corry."

While it would make sense to let another team set the market, it’s actually the Cowboys they should be looking at.

The Cowboys couldn’t get a long-term deal agreed with Bryant, and were forced to place the franchise tag on him to keep the playmaker in town.

Bryant will now earn $12.82 million on a one-year deal, and has all the leverage in long-term negotiations. The longer it goes on, the more money Bryant can command.

The Falcons need to ensure they don’t suffer in the same way. Putting a strong offer on the table right now for Jones makes sense for everyone involved.

It allows the Falcons to begin negotiations to lock up a crucial member of the roster long-term. For Jones, he can secure his long-term future too.

Nov 30, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (11) makes a catch against Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson (21) in the second quarter of their game at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

With a multi-year deal, Jones would be able to guarantee money regardless of what happens in the 2015 season. If the unlikely scenario in which he suffered a drop in form or a serious injury, Jones would have long-term financial security.

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Of course on the flip side, another strong season and Jones’ market value will rise dramatically — just ask Randall Cobb.

That’s even more reason for the Falcons to get the ball rolling on a new deal. The longer it goes, the more money he can demand and the more leverage he owns.

Yes, the Falcons will have the option to designate the franchise tag on Jones next offseason if they can’t strike a deal, that’s a road worth avoiding.

As McClure writes, Corry agrees this is a risky move:

"“But when you start playing that game, the agent is going to look at what that franchise tag number will be — next year, I calculate against a $150-plus million cap, that would put it over $14 million for receivers,” Corry said.“Say it’s $14 million next year. Then you’re talking $16 the next year (2017). So then that gives the agent ammunition to say, ‘You need to pay me the $15 million per range because if you play the franchise-tag game, that’s where I’m going to end up by the time this is all said and done.”"

For now, there is plenty of time for the Falcons to get the deal done. Despite that, they should be aware that the longer it goes, the harder it will be to strike a long-term deal with him.

If Jones has a strong start to the season and hasn’t negotiated a new deal, his value will continue to rise. The Falcons would be smart to get it done sooner rather than later.

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