In the nick of time, Julio Jones gets his new contract

Credit: Mark Brown

Credit: Mark Brown

The Falcons should send Antonio Brown flowers, or a basket of muffins, or whatever the King of Instagram might consider appropriate. If not for AB’s antics – frostbite, inappropriate helmets, GM cuss-outs, taped phone calls – the Flowery Branch bunch would have claimed the prize for “silliest offseason involving a big-name wide receiver.”

But no. Antonio Brown trumped everything ever. T.O. and Ochocinco and Dez and Brandon Marshall have hereby been left in the dust. It takes real negotiating skill to talk your way off two NFL franchises in one calendar year, and we’re barely past Labor Day. Say what you will about Julio Jones’ protracted pursuit of a new contract, but he managed to show up for most things. (Didn’t play in any exhibition games, and he barely practiced, but hey, he’s Julio.)

He’s also the NFL’s highest-paid receiver, which apparently means a lot to him, and his redone contract – a three-year extension for $66 million, all of it guaranteed, that carries through the 2023 season – should keep him happy until some other wideout gets even more, which is the way of the NFL. Credit to the Falcons and Jones for coming to an agreement. No credit to either side for waiting until 24 hours before the real season – the one of which Julio does partake – for signatures to be exchanged.

That was the goofy part. The Falcons said in July 2018  they wanted to make this happen. Julio obviously wanted it to happen, else he’d never have skipped the 2018 minicamp and acted as if he mightn’t show for full-blown camp. But he did, and he got a bit more money last season for agreeing to continue to honor the contract he’d already signed, with the promise of a newer and better one to come. And yet …

At his Thursday media session after an indoor practice that saw him do next to nothing – the Falcons said he wasn't injured, just resting – he was asked repeatedly if he would absolutely positively grace Sunday's game in Minneapolis without a new contract in hand. He said a lot of things, but he never quite said yes. 

This was the sort of 48-hour story that nobody will recall 48 hours from now, but these were bizarre hours. Jones was named team captain Friday, even as his status for the opener remained hazy. Stop me if you’ve heard this already, but this is a massive season for the Falcons, and mostly for their head coach. Imagine Dan Quinn’s reaction if one of his two best players, one of the key members of the ballyhooed Brotherhood, chose to skip Game 1 because 13 months of talking had accomplished nothing.

Moot point now, though. Julio has his money, and we can assume he’s a happy guy. (We know for a flat-out fact that Dan Quinn and Matt Ryan and Dirk Koetter are having a contest to see who can heave the deepest sigh of relief.) The Falcons can turn their gaze to the Vikings, who aren’t great but are favored by four points. With the Eagles coming to Atlanta next weekend, an 0-1 start could well be 0-2, meaning the DQ Watch would be well and truly on.

Say this for Julio: He made a case to get paid without making himself the absolute center of attention, which isn’t always the way of the NFL. Ninety-nine percent of all summer stories written about the Oakland Raiders involved a receiver who will never play a real game for that club. Brown – who has dubbed himself Mr. Big Chest – considers himself the NFL’s best wideout. He’s barely in the NFL - he signed with the Patriots late Saturday - and he was never better than Julio Jones.