Atlanta Falcons: Why Julio Jones’ Contract Should Be Top Priority


The Atlanta Falcons made some excellent moves in the 2015 NFL Draft, but the attention must now turn to the contract of Julio Jones.

The star receiver is set to become a free agent after the 2015 season, and the Falcons simply can’t allow that to happen. New head coach Dan Quinn is looking to build this team from the ground up, and allowing a major player to walk would undo a lot of the good work they have started.

Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff shares the same view, and has made extending Jones’ contract a priority.

“There is no question that our focus in the future will be on Julio Jones and where we are,” Dimitroff told “I don’t want to get into specifics about the timing of that, obviously. But now that the draft is over and we continue to build this football team, we understand that Julio is a very important part of our building and evolving as a championship-type team.”

After two disappointing seasons, I think it’s fair to say the arrow is pointing firmly up for this football team. This is largely due to the hiring of Quinn, who has a philosophy and identity he wants to stamp on the Falcons.

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Long term, he wants to replicate the success he enjoyed at the Seattle Seahawks. Two words which sum up the Seahawks? Fast and physical. Those two words were echoed by Quinn when he spoke about the type of player he wants to fill his roster with.

The Seahawks are built on defense. They are tough and fast to swarm to the football. On offense, they rely heavily on the power of running back Marshawn Lynch. The Falcons will be looking to lean on rookie Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman to find success on the ground.

One area the Seahawks haven’t been strong in the past couple of years?

They have lacked a star receiver. They have the defense. They have the running back. They have the quarterback in Russell Wilson. They haven’t had, however, a Julio Jones.

Maybe they have found that guy with Jimmy Graham, but he wasn’t there while Seattle was dominating the NFC en route to consecutive Super Bowl appearances.

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

This fact further highlights the importance of signing Jones to a new deal. Last season, he finished third in the NFL for receiving yards, catching 104 passes for 1,593 yards and six touchdowns.

While the defense continues its rebuild, ensuring Matt Ryan has plenty of targets around him is crucial. The Falcons’ defense won’t resemble the Seahawks’ dominant force in 2015, or probably even 2016, so they will need to be able to play offense at a high level to win games.

Oct 26, 2014; London, UNITED KINGDOM; Atlanta Falcons receiver Julio Jones (11) is defended by Detroit Lions safety Glover Quin (27) in the second quarter in the NFL International Series game at Wembley Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

How much would an extension cost the Falcons?

Calvin Johnson is the highest paid wide receiver in the NFL, earning an average of $16.21 million per year, according to Over The Cap. Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas were franchised tagged this offseason, meaning they will both make $12.83 million on one-year deals.

Mike Wallace, Vincent Jackson and Larry Fitzgerald are the highest earners behind them, and it’s fair to say Jones will be expecting to be in the discussion of the former rather than the latter. Don’t expect him to take a hometown discount like Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb took with the Packers, either.

To keep Jones in Atlanta, the deal will likely resemble Johnson’s, and it’s possible he would even be made the league’s highest paid receiver. The Falcons still have $17.22 million in cap space available, so there is plenty of room to make a deal with Jones.

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Cornerback Desmond Trufant is under contract through 2016, but the Falcons will want to get him locked up long term at some point in the next year or so, which means they will need to be sensible with their money.

The Falcons can grow into one of the best teams in the NFC over time with Dan Quinn in charge. In 2015 we will see the beginning of the rebuild, and with time and patience, the Falcons can become a force.

To do so, they will need to keep adding playmakers to the roster while maintaining the core of special players they already have under contract.

Julio Jones is one of them, and they need to keep it that way.

Next: NFL Super Bowl Odds: Do the Falcons have chance?