Falcons shouldn’t mistake Julio Jones’ congeniality for concession

The Atlanta Falcons offense needs Julio Jones to be successful. Fortunately, the Pro Bowl wide receiver seems to be ready to show up for training camp.

Falcons fans can breathe a little easier about the status of Julio Jones today. Even though the star wide receiver is skipping the team’s OTAs he doesn’t seem to be headed for a training camp holdout. Jones insists that things between he and his team are “good.”

That doesn’t mean Jones wouldn’t like a new contract from the Falcons. Most people believe that’s the reason he’s stayed away from team activities to date. The 2011 first round pick is in the middle of the 5-year, $71.2 million contract he signed back in 2015. Unfortunately for Jones, recent receiver contracts have rendered his current deal pretty pedestrian.

Fortunately for the Falcons’ front office, Jones doesn’t have any “bad blood” with the team over his contract status. At least on the surface, he seems willing to give the team plenty of time to rework his deal before the start of the 2018 season. Given Jones’ recent production it’s reasonable to think Atlanta will be willing to meet their receiver halfway during negotiations.

Despite drafting Calvin Ridley in the first round of this year’s draft, Atlanta can’t afford to play without Jones for any extended period of time. Ridley and slot receiver Mohamed Sanu are a solid duo for a team looking to support a true number one wideout. Asking either of those two players to step into Jones’ role in the offense would be disastrous for the Falcons.

It’s certainly a risk the Falcons don’t want to take given their recent investment into Matt Ryan’s new quarterback. Atlanta chose to make Ryan the highest paid quarterback in football history. Making that sort of guarantee to Ryan only provides Jones more leverage in his own contract negotiations. The Falcons front office wants to make their decision to pay Ryan look good. Jones is the player on the team’s offense most capable of making Ryan look like an All-Pro.

There’s still a lot of time between now and the start of Falcons training camp, but Atlanta fans can safely assume they’ll see Julio Jones there. At least for now, the talented wideout is taking the high road. The team’s front office should make sure they don’t mistake Jones’ kindness for weakness. If he chooses to play hardball it could ruin the Falcons’ Super Bowl hopes.

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