Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan was in a dour mood while discussing the team’s meek performance in the 13-9 loss to the Miami Dolphins.
But his spirit picked up immensely at the mention of wide receiver Julio Jones’ five-year, $71.25 million contract extension he reached with the team before the game on Saturday night.
“Obviously, I’m probably the happiest person in the organization to have him back,” Ryan said. “He’s a premier player, one of the best in the league. He’s an even better teammate. He’s the best and I’m just excited that he’s going to be here for a long time.”
Jones’ agent Jimmy Sexton gave him a warning before the game. He told Jones’ to take his cell phone with him on the field during warmups, because the parties were so closed to a deal.
“I figured out and knew for sure that it was done was when Mr. Blank got here,” Jones said. “He came on the field and gave me a big hug. He was like ‘congratulations.’ He said he was very proud of the way I handled this. … by keeping the team first.”
What Blank seem to admire most was that Jones didn’t bicker in public about the negotiations.
“We couldn’t be more enthused about it than what we are,” Blank said. “He’s been a great player for us. He represents everything that we love in terms of a player on-the-field and off-the-field.”
Blank took note of other wide receivers around the league, who went public with their contract demands.
“He came to work and worked hard,” Blank said. “It was never an issue. There was never a question. He knew that we’d eventually be able to pull something together that would be acceptable to us and to him. We were able to do that.
“It’s a credit to him personally. It’s a credit to our organization, guys like Nick Polk, Thomas (Dimitroff) and others who have worked on this deal.”
Blank believes securing Jones is good for the team’s future.
“From Atlanta’s standpoint, he’s a major anchor for us in our offense going forward,” Blank said.
Quinn was also elated with the news.
“We love the competitor,” Quinn said. “The style. The effort. He really represents all of the things that that I love about football. …He’s a really unique player. I can’t wait to coach him for a long time.”
Jones, who has reached two Pro Bowls since the Falcons selected him sixth overall in the 2011 NFL draft, said he drew some inner strength from his mother, Queen.
“It wasn’t difficult at all for me,” Jones said. “It’s just my makeup. The way I was raise, I guess. I just left it in God’s hands. I talked to my mom every day about it. She was like. ‘just pray about it. Just show up to work every day. Let God take care of it’ and that’s what I did.”
Jones knew the team could have elected to let him play at just over $10 million in 2015 and that the Falcons could have placed the franchise on him for two seasons.
“I didn’t have any doubts in my mind that we were going to get it done,” Jones said. “If it wasn’t this year, it would have been next year. We were going to get a deal done. Like I said, I wanted to be a Falcon for the rest of my career. Mr. Blank let it be known that he wanted me here as well. We came to an agreement today.”
Jones was in a jovial mood while discussing his new deal.
“I just really appreciate the opportunity that the Atlanta Falcons have given me to be here for the next five years,” Jones said. “There is nothing that I need to go buy or anything else. I just want to go play football and win games.”
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