Accuse us of being in the tank for Julio Jones if you will. There has not been a single more important Alabama football recruit since Willie Joe Namath. It’s not a stretch to draw a line his signing in February of 2008 to the present dynasty Alabama enjoys. Tough, speedy, physical, a weight room and film room student, and an excellent blocker to boot, Jones is the consummate team player. He even took a discounted, if still-lucrative, second deal with the Falcons after grossly overperforming his rookie contract.
But, a lot has changed in just two years, especially the market for players in the passing game.
Jones’ salary is no longer paid among the elite of the position. He is just the 8th-highest paid wide receiver. To be sure, he has more guaranteed money than most: almost half of his $71 million contract is guaranteed. But, even the oft-injured Sammy Watkins see 62% of his deal guaranteed. And, not a single player in their second deal that has put up comparable numbers is pulling down less than $15 million per year, with most in the $16+ million range. In this market, at $14.25 per year, Jones is a steal, despite the foot and toe injuries that have popped up throughout his career.
But, there are still three years left on his contract. And, that’s an issue, particularly with the Falcons trying the case in the court of public opinion. That is perhaps why Jones, the ultimate team guy, has escalated the dispute into territory which makes clear his deal needs to be reworked — by skipping the Falcons mandatory OTAs:
The decision to skip mandatory minicamp takes the situation to the proverbial next level, making it clear that despite Jones’ past denials, there’s a problem. Even if neither Jones nor his agent, Jimmy Sexton, will admit it.
“I’m not going to comment publicly about the situation,” Sexton told D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I’m going to let them say whatever they want to say.”
That last quote suggests that Sexton and Jones may not actually agree with whatever the Falcons have said, including the claim that talks have been “productive and constructive.”
The broader question for Jones, as it will be for any player skipping mandatory minicamp, becomes whether he’ll risk incurring $40,000 in daily fines or surrender game checks if necessary to get what he wants.
Jones and Blank have repeatedly expressed their fondness for one another, and Jones seems very comfortable as a face of the franchise. But the notoriously hard-nosed Jimmy Sexton, famed for leveraging buyers into opening the wallet, is probably not going to let Atlanta benefit from a deal that is looking better and better with each passing year for a player well on his way to Canton.
Pay the man.