So what’s up with Julio Jones? Probably nothing much

“I could loan you a million or two.”

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“I could loan you a million or two.”

It’s unclear what, if anything, is ongoing with Julio Jones. One report holds that he’s unhappy with his contract and planned to distance himself from OTAs as a sign of his discontent. (OTA stands for “organized team activity.” The participants start with crafts. Then they sing songs. Then they have a snack, after which they go canoeing. Yes, I’m lying.)

On cue, Jones wasn't in Flowery Branch for OTA No. 1 on Monday. The trouble with that: He has never been much for OTAs, He comes once a week. And OTAs are voluntary – unlike, say, actual practice. (NFL teams convene so often that it's hard to know what's what.) If you plan on making a point, skipping an OTA is among the least effective ways of doing it. If you're there, great. If you're not, no biggie.

About here, we should stipulate that neither Jones nor his agent — Jimmy Sexton, who represents everybody who has ever passed through the state of Alabama — has confirmed any disgruntlement. This "what's-up-with-Julio" chatter commenced from the removal of team symbols from his social media accounts. Dennis Schroder did something similar just before he lobbied to be traded by the Hawks, but there has been no follow-through of intent with Jones. (Who, it must be said, means more to the Falcons than Schroder ever will to any team.)

There has likewise been no clarification regarding Jones’ social media, which could mean something, unless it doesn’t. Not every big-time sports person runs his/her social media accounts. (Sorry to disillusion you.) This could be a re-branding thing. It could be nothing at all. (Glad to clear that up for you.)

Just for today, let’s assume the reports/whispers/tea leaves hold some measure of truth. Let’s assume Jones wants more money. You could see why. His contract runs through 2020. Over those three seasons, his average salary will be lower than seven other receivers, Jones’ longtime rival A.J. Green and the immortal Davante Adams among them. There aren’t seven better NFL wideouts than Jones. There isn’t one. Then again, Matt Ryan’s salary is bigger than Tom Brady’s. Contracts are as much about timing as value.

Jones signed a five-year extension in 2015. He became the second-highest-paid receiver behind Calvin Johnson, who retired at season’s end. The market has changed, as markets will. What seemed a windfall isn’t nearly so, er, windy. That’s the way of long-term deals. In gaining security, you sacrifice earning potential.

Which isn’t to say that, in re-upping for $71.25 million over five years, Jones and his representation erred. Jones will be 32 when this contract lapses. Who’s the best aging wideout you’ve seen lately? Probably Larry Fitzgerald, who just made the Pro Bowl at 34, but he’s more a possession receiver now. Andre Johnson and Steve Smith made the Pro Bowl at 32 but never again. Roddy White’s last Pro Bowl was at 30. As mentioned, Calvin Johnson retired at 30. Dez Bryant got cut – at 29.

Ryan, who’s 32, signed for $150 million over five years, but he plays a different position. He doesn’t have to run fast and jump high. Jones is among the greatest receivers ever, but he’s still a receiver. There’s no way the Falcons in good conscience could tack another four years on his contract at $17 million per annum, which is what the Steelers’ Antonio Brown is making, because you’d be paying top dollar for a player who’ll be — almost certainly — on the down slope of a distinguished career.

And let’s say the Falcons were inclined to give Jones such an extension. With Ryan’s megamillions already on the books, what would that mean for salary-cap purposes? All those young defenders drafted under Dan Quinn will reach extension age very soon. Do you raze a lovingly cultivated defense to buy more of Jones in his middle 30s?

Let’s be clear: The Falcons love Julio Jones. They loved him enough to trade five picks for the rights to draft him. They love him enough to let him practice less than any other player in the NFL. If he and Sexton do ask, “What can you do for us, money-wise?” The guess is that they’d try to figure a way to bump him into Brown’s tax bracket. But they’re not apt to rip up this contract and start again.

A little more money might or might not placate Jones, assuming he needs placating, but he doesn't have all that much bargaining power. He's under contract for three more years. He'll turn 30 next February. There's no way the Falcons could get anything approaching his current value in trade. (NFL teams don't make deals like that, not since the Cowboys dumped Herschel Walker on the Vikings and built a dynasty.) He could hold out a while, but he gets nothing if he doesn't play, and he seems to enjoy playing.

We say again: There could be nothing to any of this. For all we know, Jones could be sitting back laughing over the ongoing speculation. (“They think that? Really?”) Even if he isn’t exactly giddy about his contract, there’s only so much that can be done. And even the worst-case-scenario — that Jones holds out of training camp — wouldn’t be awful. He doesn’t do much before September, anyway.

So long as he’s in Philadelphia in uniform on Sept. 6, everything will copacetic. And he will be.