Julio Jones

If everything goes according to plan, the Atlanta Falcons will have Julio Jones signed on a new, long term deal before the season begins, although as always with big bucks and long deals, it’s taking them putting them together.

The Falcons don’t want to wait for the last moment or use the franchise tag on Jones, who when healthy has been one of the most explosive wide receivers in the league, catching 104 passes for 1593 yards and six touchdowns last season, bouncing back quite well from a rough 2013 season in which he played just 5 games.

The former Alabama star’s new deal will obviously be closely related to the recent deals for Dez Bryant of the Dallas Cowboys and Demaryius Thomas of the Denver Broncos. Both of them signed deals worth $70 million over five seasons with more than $40 million guaranteed. So he can go to $14 million or maybe even $15 million on average. How about someone finally touching the $16.2 million on average Calvin Johnson is making in Detroit? Probably not yet.

Speaking on the matter recently was team owner Arthur Blank, suggesting that the deals Bryant and Thomas got will obviously be some sort of scale for the deal Jones eventually signs. Despite 11 games in 2013, the Falcons don’t have any long-term worries about his health and fitness. Last season he played in 15 games and set career highs in receptions and yards.

We’re in the middle of those discussions. We expect Julio to be a lifer for the Falcons. We’re moving forward and have every reason to be positive and be enthusiastic about it. I think whatever the market is in the league, we look at Julio as certainly being in that class. The specifics, his length of contract and where he is in his contract terms is different than those players Bryant and Thomas. All of that needs to be built into the new deal. But we view Jones as one of the top receivers in the NFL, and I think most people do as well. I think we’ve gotten the best medical advice, really, in the world. And he followed their program last year to a T. This year, he’s been able to do more during the offseason, and I think that reflects in the way he looks at camp and the way he’s working.

Jones is a two-time Pro Bowler who was third last season in receiving yards and in receptions, while his yards per game (106.2) ranked second in the NFL. He also finished second in the league with 15.2 yards per touch. He’ll make $10.176 million, his fifth in the league and the final on his rookie deal.

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