Fal­cons won’t of­fer Jones new con­tract be­fore start of camp

Calhoun Times - - SPORTS WEDNESDAY - By Paul New­berry

— Sti­fled by the salary cap, the At­lanta Fal­cons won’t be of­fer­ing Julio Jones a more lu­cra­tive con­tract. Not this year, at least. Now the ques­tion is: Will the star re­ceiver show up for training camp?

The Fal­cons in­formed Jones sev­eral weeks ago that they would not rene­go­ti­ate his cur­rent $71.5 mil­lion pack­age, which still has three years re­main­ing and in­cluded $47 mil­lion in guar­an­teed money, ac­cord­ing to a per­son fa­mil­iar with the dis­cus­sions. The per­son spoke to The As­so­ci­ated Press on con­di­tion of anonymity Thurs­day be­cause the talks have not been made pub­lic.

The team’s de­ci­sion, which was first re­ported by The Ath­letic, does not pre­clude talks af­ter the sea­son on a deal more in line with Jones’ sta­tus as one of the NFL’s top re­ceivers. But the Fal­cons do not be­lieve they have enough fi­nan­cial lee­way un­der the cap to rene­go­ti­ate the con­tract in 2018.

The team hasn’t been told if Jones will be at training camp. Play­ers are re­quired to re­port next Thurs­day, with the first prac­tice the fol­low­ing day.

At­lanta al­ready agreed to a five-year, $150 mil­lion ex­ten­sion with quarterback Matt Ryan, the most lu­cra­tive deal in NFL his­tory. The team is also fo­cused on work­ing out new con­tracts for de­fen­sive tackle Grady Jar­rett, of­fen­sive guard Jake Matthews and safety Ricardo Allen.

A flurry of new con­tracts dur­ing the off­sea­son dropped Jones, who makes an av­er­age salary of $14.25 mil­lion, out of the top half-dozen on the list of the league’s high­est-paid re­ceivers. Tampa Bay’s Mike Evans, Cleve­land’s Jarvis Landry and Kansas City’s Sammy Watkins are among those now mak­ing more per year than Jones, a twotime All-Pro who caught 88 passes for 1,444 yards last sea­son.

In 2015, Jones turned in one of the great­est sea­sons by a re­ceiver with 136 re­cep­tions for 1,871 yards and eight touch­downs. He is a five­time Pro Bowler.

In an ap­par­ent sign of his un­hap­pi­ness, Jones skipped or­ga­nized team work­outs at the team’s training fa­cil­ity this sum­mer, as well as a manda­tory mini­camp. But he ap­par­ently took part in Ryan’s pri­vate pass­ing camp in Cal­i­for­nia along with about a dozen of his team­mates this month.

Jones has gone silent on so­cial me­dia and hasn’t talked with the At­lanta me­dia in months. In one of his rare me­dia ap­pear­ances, he told TMZ that he has a good re­la­tion­ship with the fran­chise that pulled off a huge trade with Cleve­land to make him a first-round pick in 2011.

“Ev­ery­one wants a story right now. There’s no story to be told,” Jones in­sisted. “I’m just work­ing on get­ting my­self bet­ter. I’m just work­ing on my­self right now. That’s all that is. There’s no bad blood be­tween me and the team or any­thing like that.”

Jones re­mains in the good graces of coach Dan Quinn, who didn’t seem at all up­set when Jones skipped the mini­camp .

“Some­times foot­ball and busi­ness in­ter­sect,” Quinn said. “That’s OK and that hap­pens a lot.”

Quinn has talked con­stantly of “broth­er­hood” and mak­ing sure play­ers do ev­ery­thing as a team. For in­stance, the play­ers stood to­gether as a team on the side­line dur­ing the na­tional an­them for all games af­ter two play­ers kneeled in protest early in the 2017 sea­son.

Quinn doesn’t think Jones’ ab­sence has af­fected the Fal­cons’ unity.

“Do we want ev­ery­body here all the time? Hell yeah, like all the time,” the coach said. “What I’d say is if you ask to a man, the guy is a hell of a team­mate, and the time he spends here, the way he men­tors peo­ple, how hard he plays, there is plenty of broth­er­hood in Julio.”

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