On the last offensive play of the Atlanta Falcons 2017 season, Julio Jones dropped the ball. Now the Falcons may drop the ball with Jones, one way or another.
Mandatory minicamp came and went without an appearance from Julio Jones, who decided to work out with Terrell Owens instead while he attempts to iron out a new contract with the Falcons. This comes just months after Jones mysteriously unfollowed the Falcons across all forms of social media.
If you’re a Falcons fan, you’re probably used to stress by now, or maybe you’re like me and have become entirely numb since Super Bowl LI. It’s downright sad to be an adult worrying about a player’s Twitter activity, but Terrell Owens is the most talented homewrecker since Blac Chyna. It’s cause for some concern.
Julio training with T.O. may help the Falcons star wideout get in the end zone more, and it may also cause him to become toxic to the locker room in the way Owens once was. Their relationship will almost certainly result in one of the two.
Those who are familiar with Jones’ personality know it would be out of character for Julio to become a diva after being a silent, hard-working player with a team-first mentality for the first seven years of his career. Still, the NFL can be dull in the offseason, causing reports that a wide receiver unfollowed his team on social media to become a Trumpian scandal. What else are people going to talk about? The national anthem? That’s already a Trump controversy.
Still, Julio’s holdout has sparked an interesting debate about whether or not he has even earned a raise. Last year during the regular season, Jones had just three touchdowns altogether, and two of those came in the same game. The other touchdown? That one came at the end of a humiliating 23-7 loss to the New England Patriots on Sunday Night Football, long after the game was already lost. Sure, Jones had a touchdown in the Falcons’ playoff win against the Rams, but his lack of trips to the end zone has surpassed the standard for alarm.
It’s not just that Jones struggled with scoring touchdowns last year – this has been an issue his entire career. Jones has reached ten touchdowns just once since joining the league, and that was in 2012, his second season. The closest he’s come since was an eight touchdown performance in 2015, and it took him 136 catches to get there. It almost doesn’t make sense for Jones to score as infrequently as he does, but then again, this is the Atlanta Falcons we’re talking about, and nothing makes sense with this team.
With three years left on his current contract, many Falcons fans want Julio to uphold his end of the contract, which was top market value at the time. Should Jones be the highest-paid wideout in the league? Perhaps, yet he certainly shouldn’t expect to be the highest paid receiver in the league every year he plays. The NFL contract market is one that is rapidly changing, and while Jarvis Landry should never make more money than Jones, that’s the way it works.
Considering Matt Ryan just signed a monster $150 million contract, the Falcons would likely cripple their team by throwing more substantial money at an offensive star. Their young defense will have a crop of players set to receive new contracts sooner than it seems, and if the Falcons have (hopefully) learned anything from their successes and failures, it’s that defense is the side of the ball that wins shiny silver trophies.
While nobody expects the Falcons and Jones to part ways anytime soon, the Calvin Ridley pick adds an interesting element to the negotiations. If Ridley is the playmaker he was at Alabama, he will add a level of potency to the Falcons offense that was sorely lacking during the majority of last season. Ridley could be the leverage chip the Falcons need to stave off Jones’ pricey demands.
But what if Julio Jones finds that he doesn’t want to stay in Atlanta, period?
Julio Jones is a competitor first and foremost, and the Falcons are one of the league’s best teams, yet the question still looms over them like a dark cloud the size of Alaska – can they win the big one? Right now, Julio Jones is being thrown to by Matt Ryan, one of the league’s best signal-callers, but also a quarterback with a terrifying habit of choking away big games.
17-0 in the 2012 NFC Championship game.
21-0 against the Detroit Lions in London back in 2014.
28-3 in Super Bowl LI.
17-0 at halftime vs. Miami last season.
The aforementioned loss to the Lions kept the Falcons from making the playoffs that year, while last year’s meltdown against Jay Cutler’s Dolphins contributed to a three game losing streak in what was supposed to be the easy half of the schedule.
None of those infamous choke-jobs even account for Ryan’s first playoff win, a 30-28 triumph over the Seattle Seahawks where the Falcons led 27-7 at one point, then choked the lead away and had to kick a game-winning field goal as time expired.
Twice last year, the Falcons nearly blew two separate two-score fourth quarter leads to the Seahawks and Buccaneers on Monday Night Football, and would have been tied going into overtime if not for their opponents each missing field goals as the clock hit zero.
Does that sound like a quarterback, or team, that Julio Jones thinks he can win a Super Bowl with? Is Dan Quinn a coach capable of finishing a team off in the fourth quarter? Is Steve Sarkisian still going to be calling jet sweeps when it’s 4th and goal from the 1? Is it in the Falcons DNA to choke?
These are the questions Terrell Owens is certainly echoing into Jones’ ears.
For Falcons fans, there’s only one question: is this the beginning of the end for Julio Jones in Atlanta?