Falcons’ Arthur Smith to address Julio Jones’ ‘I’m outta there’ comments

Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones, who is not playing in the game, watches from the end zone as his teammates prepare to play the Chicago Bears Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones, who is not playing in the game, watches from the end zone as his teammates prepare to play the Chicago Bears Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

The first big controversy of the Falcons’ new era will be addressed Tuesday by rookie head coach Arthur Smith.

The Falcons, in a tight salary cap situation, are considering trading seven-time Pro Bowl and two-time All-Pro Julio Jones, who has three years left on his contract. Jones, the leading receiver in franchise history, made his first public comments on the matter, indicating his days with the Atlanta Falcons may be numbered.

“I’m outta there, man,” Jones told Shannon Sharpe during a phone conversation broadcast on live television Monday.

It was later learned that Jones previously requested a trade from the team, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.

Jones didn’t immediately return a call and a text message to his cell phone from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The wide receiver was reached by Sharpe live on the air during FS1′s Undisputed program. Jones was not told he was live, by another host, until after he answered several questions.

The Falcons declined to comment about Jones’ choice of words. However, Smith is expected to address the issue during a regularly scheduled media availability session Tuesday before an open OTA session.

Falcons head coach Arthur Smith (center) addresses the offense and defense for instruction during rookie minicamp Friday, May 14, 2021, in Flowery Branch. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

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Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Jones’ agent, Jimmy Sexton, did not immediately return calls from the AJC, regarding Jones’ comments to Sharpe.

The phone call from Sharpe was prompted when a photo surfaced of Jones in a Dallas Cowboys shirt at a mall last week.

A part of the conversation between Jones and Sharpe went like this:

Sharpe: “Do you want to go to the Cowboys, Julio? Or do you want to stay in Atlanta?”

Jones: “Oh man, I’m outta there man.”

Sharpe: “Ideally, where would you like to go?”

Jones: “Right now, I want to win.”

Jones signed a three-year contract extension Sept. 7, 2019. The deal had a cash value of $87.026 million and included a signing bonus of $25 million and a roster bonus of $11 million, according to NFLPA documents. A total of $66 million was guaranteed.

Jones’ cap number for 2021 is $15.3 million, and it’s $19.263 in 2022 and 2023. If the Falcons trade Jones after June 1, they will create $15.3 million in salary-cap space.

The Falcons have made moves over the offseason to create salary-cap space by restructuring the contracts of Jake Matthews, Matt Ryan and Deion Jones and releasing Ricardo Allen, James Carpenter, Allen Bailey and Ito Smith. The Falcons also elected not to re-sign safeties Keanu Neal and Damontae Kazee and had outside linebacker Dante Fowler and defensive tackle Tyeler Davison agree to pay cuts.

If the Falcons trade Jones after June 1, they will create $15.3 million in salary cap space.

The Falcons trade partners are not limitless. There are only 10 teams — Jaguars, Jets, Bengals, Broncos, Browns, Colts, Chargers, Lions, 49ers and Patriots — that could take on Jones’ contract.

Of those teams, only the 49ers, Browns and Patriots would qualify as teams ready to win. The 49ers went to the Super Bowl after the 2019 season before suffering a injury-marred 2020 season.

The Browns went to the playoffs in 2020. The Patriots are retooling after moving on from Tom Brady and going 7-9 last season.

Also, NBC Sports Boston’s Michael Holley reported that Jones would like to play with Cam Newton as the Patriots.

“You know who he really wants to play with? You won’t believe this. I heard this today, I said ‘Are you kidding me?’ He wants to play with Cam Newton,” Holley said. “He likes Cam.”

Jones could be reunited with former Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan if he’s traded to San Francisco.

Jones caught a league leading 136 passes and 1,872 yards under Shanahan in 2015. His 83 catches and 1,409 yards in 2016 and helped the Falcons reach the Super Bowl.

Credit: Atlanta Falcons

Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot addresses reports the team has been taking trade proposals for All Pro wide receiver Julio Jones.

Jones, the Falcons’ all-time receiving leader with 848 catches, 12,896 yards and 60 touchdowns, has been a mainstay of the offense since he was drafted sixth overall out of Alabama in 2011.

New general manager Terry Fontenot stood by comments he made during the draft about the team accepting calls regarding Jones.

It was pointed out that the team doesn’t consider itself to be shopping Jones around the league.

“So, we hold him in high regard,” Fontenot said. “The answer to that is just pointing to the cap and pointing to the fact that, we’ll answer calls on any players. When teams ask about players, we have to answer those calls, and we have to listen because we do have to continue to — we knew, when we stepped into this, we were going to have to make some tough decisions because it’s just the reality of it. That’s where we are with the salary cap. So we have to make some difficult decisions, so we have to look at all the different options and all the different scenarios.”

In a one-on-one interview for the 252nd episode of The Bow Tie Chronicles podcast (March 3), Smith was asked if he’d spoken directly to players, and specifically Jones.

Smith replied: “We have talked to most of the players. We’ve reached out. Whether if it was me or the position coaches. We feel good. Sometimes it’s hard because you are going through a transition. It’s a little bit different from college football, when it’s like hey this is your roster. You know these guys are going to be here. It’s very fluid in the NFL. What I don’t want to do is sit there and tell somebody, paint this image of everything is great. Unfortunately, we’ve got to make some hard decisions. But we’ve been respectful. We’ve reached out and communicated whether if it was me or one of the position coaches.”

After Monday’s disclosure on Undisputed, the Tennessee Titans were named as the early favorite to land Jones. They’re currently given +175 odds, or an implied 36.4% chance to land the superstar, according to OddsChecker.

The next favorite is the Falcons’ who oddsmakers give +250 odds, or an implied 28.6% chance of keeping Jones. The Patriots also are an early threat to land Jones as they’re given +500 odds, or an implied 16.7% chance to pull off a trade.

Also listed are the 49ers, Washington, Arizona, and Las Vegas. Among the long shots are division rivals New Orleans and Tampa Bay.

“There’s little chance the Falcons trade Julio within division, but oddsmakers do give the Bucs and Saints an outside shot, the Saints at +3000 and the Bucs at +4500,” said OddsChecker spokesman Kyle Newman. “Among the more intriguing long shots is the Baltimore Ravens, who are given +1200 odds.

“Whatever the case, it looks like Julio wants out and there’s no shortage of teams in the NFL with a need for an elite (wide receiver).”