Atlanta Falcons: Should Julio Jones be the top paid Wide Receiver in the league?

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 26: Julio Jones (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 26: Julio Jones (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images) /

With his ability to change a game with one play, should Atlanta Falcons wide out Julio Jones be the top paid receiver in the NFL?

Should Julio Jones of the Atlanta Falcons be the highest paid receiver in the league? Two years ago I think the answer to this question would’ve been a pretty easy “yes.” The former Alabama standout was coming off his second straight 100-plus reception season. He’d caught 136 passes for 1,871 yards and eight touchdowns.

The year before he had hauled in 104 for 1,593 and six scores. He was named to his third consecutive Pro Bowl (his fourth overall) and his second consecutive first-team All-Pro selection. His colleagues had also named him the third-best player in the league. He had clearly established himself as the go-to wide receiver in Atlanta over former star Roddy White.

And that was the first year of a five-year, $71.5 million extension he had just signed.

White would retire after that season, as would the great Calvin Johnson of the Detroit Lions. Larry Fitzgerald of Arizona appeared to be at the end of his career. It was too early to make a call on youngsters like Odell Beckham, Jr., Mike Evans, DeAndre Hopkins, and Allen Robinson. Jones’s real competition appeared to be only Antonio Brown from Pittsburgh and perhaps A. J. Green of Cincinnati.

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Since 2015, however, Jones’ numbers have fallen off a bit, and numbers are about the only tangible reasons a player and his agent have to pitch to his team for a new contract. The 2016 season saw Julio catch *only* 83 passes for 1,409 yards and six TD’s. Through five games this year he’s only been targeted 37 times, catching 25 of those throws for 367 yards, and he has yet to find the end zone. Having just signed an extension two years ago wouldn’t help his cause, either, if he actually wanted a new deal.

In terms of total value, the Texans’ DeAndre Hopkins is the highest paid receiver in the league at $81 million. In terms of average salary per year, Antonio Brown holds the crown at $17 million. Is Jones worth that? While the Falcons moved along without him fairly well last season as he dealt with a toe injury, this year the offense noticeably slowed down when he had to miss some time.

It certainly didn’t help that fellow starting receiver Mohamed Sanu went down at the same time, but it’s pretty clear the passing game goes through Jones. Even when he’s not being targeted his mere presence demands attention that frees up other options for quarterback Matt Ryan.

Julio is still just 28 years old. He clearly still possesses all of the athletic traits that enticed general manager Thomas Dimitroff to trade up from the 27th pick in the Draft to the 6th to guarantee his services. Jones measured 6′ 2 and 3/4″ while weighing 220 pounds at the 2011 Scouting Combine. He ran a 4.39 40-yard dash and posted a 38 1/2″ vertical leap. He even benched 225 pounds 17 times. The following two clips show he’s obviously still a physical freak:

Next: The answer is Julio Jones, now what’s your question

So, what do you think, Falcons fans – should “Jet” Jones be the highest-paid wide receiver in the NFL?