Atlanta has a plan and they are sticking to it. Having signed the franchise-tagged Grady Jarrett earlier in the week, the Georgia squad turned their attention to Deion Jones. While it may not have been the Jones that Falcons fans were hoping to be signed, it does clear the way for the team to focus solely on their superstar Wide Receiver, Julio Jones.
Despite missing over half of the season last year, the LSU recruit has impressed with 200 tackles and 99 assists in three seasons as a Falcon, and led the team in tackles as a rookie with 106. The third year veteran still averaged nearly six tackles a game in the games he did play in 2018. Now Jones will be in Atlanta for another four years on a $57 million deal, with $34 million guaranteed, and he’ll be crucial to their hopes in the NFC South. As with the Jarrett re-signing earlier in the week, with the Falcons not focusing on defence in free agency or the draft, it is key that they keep hold of their current defensive stars and Jones fits that mould exactly. He is the prototypical linebacker of today, great in coverage and athletic enough to cover the whole field.
Now with less than $10 million in cap room for the upcoming season, the Falcons will turn their attention to 30 year old Julio Jones, looking for his last big contract, while the Falcons will want to open up cap space over the next couple of seasons. Jones will count over $13 million of cap space in 2019, with a slight reduction in 2020. It’s not a surprise that Jones wants a new deal, he is now the 12th highest paid receiver in the league, having been the highest paid when he signed his current deal in 2016.
Of course with Julio’s deal expiring in March 2021, it’s no surprise that the Falcons prioritised signing Jarrett and Deion Jones, especially as there was a hard deadline to sign the former.
After signing Linebacker Jones to his first big deal, the Falcons are tight up against the cap and will struggle to give Jones the money he expects and deserves, rivalling the best receivers in the game at $18-19M. It’s clear the Falcons want to keep Jones around, he was arguably GM Thomas Dimitroff’s biggest move, but it will mean sacrifices, be it restructuring contracts, cuts or backloading Jones’ deal. In reality it will likely be a combination of the three.
With one Jones signed up for four years, now attention turns to their superstar. There’s work to do but nothing Thomas Dimitroff hasn’t seen before.
Image: Ric Tapia / AP