Atlanta Falcons, NFL

Atlanta Falcons and Julio Jones “not far apart” in contract talks

Looking to avoid the contract turmoil that plagued last offseason, the Atlanta Falcons and WR Julio Jones are close to reaching a new deal

All-Pro wide receiver Julio Jones nearly held out of Atlanta Falcons training camp last offseason. Now the team is determined to avoid having the same thing happen this summer.

The Falcons and Jones are “not far apart” in negotiations for a new contract, according to a report from Jeff Schultz of The Athletic, with a deal expected within the next few weeks. Jones has two years remaining on his deal with the Falcons and will make $9.6 million this upcoming season.

By wide receiver standards, Jones is among the most underpaid players in the NFL. His salary ranks just 11th among receivers, despite the fact he’s led the league in receiving yards twice in the last four seasons, including 1,677 a year ago. Jones threatened to holdout of training camp last July in an attempt to get more money before the Falcons agreed to pay him an extra $2.6 million in 2018.

The two sides have been negotiating a contract extension throughout the offseason, with owner Arthur Blank saying during the owner’s meetings last month they didn’t have a timetable for a new deal to be reached.

“I think the timetable will be what it is,” Blank told ESPN. “I think it’s about making the kind of progress we’d like to see. I think that they’ve begun the process. It’s a dance you have to go through, and you work closely with the player and the agent. I know we’ll come out in a good place, but it’s going to take some time.”

Jones, who turned 30 in February, is second all-time in Falcons franchise history with 698 receptions and 10,731 yards after being drafted sixth overall in 2011. Of the receivers ahead of him in salary, led by Tampa Bay’s Mike Evans, only A.J. Green and Antonio Brown are older. But the Falcons believe he still has many solid years left to give them as he enters his ninth season in the NFL in 2019. Atlanta wants to pay him because they think he’ll outlive the contract, unlike other wide receivers his age, because of his size and strength, according to a league source.

Helping the negotiations is the fact that Jones has made it clear he doesn’t need to be the highest-paid receiver in the league. That’s good news for the Falcons, who need to work out a long-term deal with All-Pro linebacker Deion Jones as he plays on the final year of his rookie contract in 2019. Fifth-year defensive lineman Grady Jarrett will also play the upcoming season on a franchise tag.

If a new deal with Jones can be reached soon, the Falcons can turn their attention to working out those deals. The Falcons open training camp in July, and unlike last season, they can be sure their franchise receiver will be there.

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