Sep 22, 2013; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (11) in the rain before a game against the Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports
WR1 — Julio Jones
This much is obvious. The man the Falcons took a huge risk on by trading away five draft picks to land him, has paid off.
Dec 28, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (11) runs with the ball against the Carolina Panthers during the first half at the Georgia Dome. The Panthers defeated the Falcons 34-3. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
In four seasons, Jones has caught 278 passes for 4,330 yards and 26 touchdowns. He is coming off the back of a career-best year, where he made 104 receptions for 1,593 yards and six scores.
Just 26 years old, Jones is entering the prime of his career and has plenty to offer the Falcons in the next five or so years. The biggest question right now is whether he remains in Atlanta beyond the 2015 season.
After exercising his fifth-year option, Jones will hit free agency next year, and the Falcons will be desperate to maintain his services. Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff is hoping to sort the deal out soon, but has no timetable.
There are a couple of factors potentially holding this new contract back. It’s possible the Falcons are waiting to see the deals Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas receive; Dallas and Denver designated the franchise tag on the two respectively.
The franchise tag is an option for Atlanta next year, so maybe Dimitroff feels no urgency, and is happy to see the contracts given to the others first.
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Determining the market value for a player like Jones, who will undoubtedly be among the highest-earners at receiver in the league, is important so the Falcons don’t overpay.
Another concern is with his injury history. Jones missed the majority of the 2013 season after undergoing foot surgery. He was able to put the injury behind him in 2014, however and post incredible numbers.
I don’t think it’s a question of if, but when Jones extends his contract in Atlanta. For 2015, he will once again be the star on offense if he can remain healthy, and we can expect another big season from #11.
Next: WR2 and WR3