Let me start by saying how disappointed I am that a sore throat has kept me from discussing this topic on The Breslanta Report (available on iTunes!) for several days, forcing me to instead write my thoughts. But when the news broke Tuesday morning, I really couldn’t hold off much longer.
The tension was palpable across the city Tuesday as Falcons fans struggled to fully comprehend the news of the day: star wide receiver Julio Jones is not going to report to training camp until his contract concerns are addressed by the team’s front office. There are now six receivers across the league who make more money than the Atlanta superstar, a fact that has apparently upset the 29-year-old with three years left on a five-year deal.
His response, after Falcons brass said they will not be redoing his deal before the season begins, was reportedly to sit out camp, which begins Friday, at a cost of $40,000 per day in fines.
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That’s all fine and well. It’s presumed that Jones has plenty of money stashed away, and his up-and-coming career in business will probably take care of that fine each day.
But Jones is not going to sit out one of the few remaining years in his prime and forfeit $10.5 million, no matter what the Falcons say in the next four weeks.
For now, this appears to be a game of chicken that has an entire city waiting for a resolution. Who will flinch first – the star receiver who knows the Falcons have a limited window to win the Super Bowl that fell through their grasp two seasons ago, or the franchise that’s fully aware their disgruntled superstar isn’t getting any younger?
It has been mentioned multiple times in past weeks and months that an incentive-laden update to Jones’s contract might be the way to go. Give him bonuses if he plays better in 2018 rather than an outright raise.
But those incentives also count against the team’s salary cap, and there isn’t much money left after the team made Matt Ryan the highest-paid football player in the history of the sport. This team only has one shot to become the next Seattle – a defensive-minded juggernaut with plenty of young talent that competes in multiple Super Bowls in a short period of time – and giving one of your oldest players a raise whenever he pleases isn’t going to make that any easier.
This isn’t to say Julio Jones should be hated by the city. After all, it was his fourth-quarter catch in Houston last February that should have delivered Atlanta its first Super Bowl in franchise history.
At this point, Jones can either accept the Falcons’ ultimatum and play, he can retire from football or he can sit out the 2018 season. Once the highest-paid receiver in the game, Jones’s contract is still nothing to sneeze at. He’s giving up a massive chunk of money if he decides to stiff the Falcons this year.
For that reason, I expect Jones in uniform in Philadelphia on Sept. 6. And I don’t think it’s going to cost the front office another dime to make that happen.Follow @Sean_Breslin