Atlanta Falcons Should Wait to Extend Julio Jones


Now that we’ve moved past free agency and the draft, the big topic for the Atlanta Falcons’ front office is Julio Jones’ new contract.

While many want the Falcons to re-sign the former first rounder out of Alabama immediately, it would be in Atlanta’s best interest to wait until the end of the season to give him the big money.

Jones is entering the final year of his rookie contract (the fifth year, which was an exercised team option), so he and his agent will come to the bargaining table and get down to brass tax with Arthur Blank, Thomas Dimitroff and Dan Quinn.

Jones will remain an Atlanta Falcon for the foreseeable future; he’s too good and the football team has too much invested in him (remember the huge package of draft picks Dimitroff sacrificed to trade up for him), but hammering out a deal right now would not be the best move.

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Coming off the back of the 2014 season, where Jones ranked third in the NFL in total catches and receiving yards, his stock is extremely high. His agent will certainly bring those numbers to the table. Jones will likely get paid top-tier receiver money, regardless of when the deal gets done.

The difference is that if Atlanta waits until next year, Jones will be motivated to play the best football of his career to prove he’s worth a big deal.

There is risk of Jones exceeding the high expectations and in turn asking for more money, like Joe Flacco did a few years ago, but the boost in pay wouldn’t really be that much more than what he would get if he signed today. Many expect him to get a contract of around $13-$15 million annually; Calvin Johnson is the highest payed receiver making $16,207,143 per year.

Jones having an astronomical year could be just what the Falcons need to make a memorable playoff run, like Flacco’s Ravens did in 2012.

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  • The biggest reason to wait is Jones’ troubling injury history. He has been battling injuries and has had durability concerns his whole career, only playing the full 16 games once in four years. He’s also currently playing with a screw in his foot.

    The injury concern will always be there, and this will undoubtedly be something Blank will be concerned about. There’s no need to rush into that kind of risk when you don’t have to. If Jones suffers another major injury this season, it gives Atlanta a lot more leverage, as opposed to if he were to sign long term right away.

    Let’s also not forget that Atlanta will have the option of applying the franchise tag next season if the two parties can’t come to an agreement. The Cowboys applied the tag to Dez Bryant, and the Broncos did the same with Demaryius Thomas this offseason; both are in the receiver tier as Jones.

    The tag can be cruel to players looking for long term security, but after Jones signs, 17-20 percent of Atlanta’s cap will be tied up in just two players (Jones and Matt Ryan). With those kind of numbers, the Falcons need to minimize the impact of another potential injury.

    It may not be pretty, but the NFL is a business, and waiting to re-sign Julio Jones is the best business move the Falcons can make in this situation.

    Next: NFC South: Each team's best and worst draft picks