Atlanta carrying on without WR Jones
FLOWERY BRANCH — Matt Ryan barked out a play, took the snap and zipped a pass to the receiver who played his college ball at Alabama. Nope, it wasn’t Julio Jones. He’s sitting out the team’s voluntary offseason program, so it was Calvin Ridley — a first-round draft pick from the Crimson Tide — who got a chance to shine during a 90-minute practice.
But, for a team with Super Bowl aspirations, it was impossible to ignore the absence of No. 11. So, where’s Julio? The Falcons say it’s no big deal, even as they talk constantly about the importance building camaraderie and trust in each other during the voluntary offseason workouts, a big part of coach Dan Quinn’s much-ballyhooed “Brotherhood.”
Jones said his absence has nothing to do with any hard feelings toward the only team he’s played with in the NFL, but he’s vague about his reasons for staying away and it seems fairly obvious that he’s trying to send a message about his desire for a new contract.
While Jones still has three seasons remaining on the last deal he signed — a five-year, $71.3 million extension with $47 million in guaranteed money — his average salary is now less than at least a half-dozen receivers around the league. Most tellingly, recent deals with Tampa Bay’s Mike Evans and Cleveland’s Jarvis Landry seemed to set a whole new financial bar for the NFL’s top pass catchers, a list that certainly includes Jones.
In addition, he surely took note when the Falcons made quarterback Matt Ryan the league’s NFL’s first $100 million man, agreeing to a new deal that assures the quarterback of at least that much in guaranteed money and could average out to as much as $30 million annually over five seasons.
Business went on as usual for Matt Ryan and other Falcons players, even with star receiver Julio Jones sitting out the team’s voluntary camp.