Julio Jones non-committal about playing in opener without a contract extension

Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones seemed non-committal about playing Sunday at Minnesota in the season opener if his contract extension is not finished.

“I don’t know,” Jones said when asked if he’ll definitely play no matter what. “What I’m trying to do is be ready. You know what I mean. It’s not if I’m going to play or if I’m not going to play. I’m trying to be out there regardless. I’m coming back from injuries and things like that, but the ultimate thing is being ready when my number is called.”

Jones, who wore two different shoes, was working at less than half speed during the opening portion of the practice. He was not listed on the injury report Wednesday.

“Today, I was a little sore from being inside on the turf and things like that,” Jones said. “As of right now, everything is good.”

The Falcons are hoping to get his deal done before the start of the season. The Falcons play at the Vikings at 1 p.m. Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Jones didn’t have an update on the negotiations from his agent Jimmy Sexton.

“When things have changed, he’ll come to me,” Jones said. “I’ve been at work, so I don’t know. When I’m at work, I’m not on my phone constantly throughout the day. When I come up here at 6:15 a.m. or 6:45 a.m., I’m at work. So, after work if he calls me or anything, we’ll touch bases if he needs to talk to me. If not, I stay focused and do what I need to do.”

The team has been working on an extension for the 30-year-old Jones, a six-time Pro Bowler who’s on the verge of breaking the franchise’s record for career receiving yards.

The wide receiver market shifted when the Saints signed Michael Thomas to a five-year, $96.25 million deal that has the potential to surpass the $100 million mark. The 26-year-old Thomas, a second-round pick out of Ohio State in 2016 has three 1,000 yard seasons to start his career and was an All-Pro last season.

It has been projected that Jones' deal would be a three-year deal worth $51.8 million with $33 million guaranteed at signing, according to Spotrac. Jones' deal has two years remaining and is scheduled to make $9.6 million in 2019 and $11.4 million in 2020.

The Falcons wanted to have a deal in place before the opener.

“It’s our goal and their goal as well to get it done before the start of the season,” Falcons owner Arthur Blank told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Aug. 26.

Jones was asked more directly, if an extension is not done by Sunday, is there a chance that he will not play.

“No, it’s like, as far as me, I’m getting me ready to go, you know what I mean,” Jones said. “Whatever (decisions Dan Quinn) make, or whoever, the organization and myself make, that decision when it’s time, we make that decision. It’s not like if he’ll play or if he’s not going to play. We’re doing everything we can.”

Would it be fair to say, “Julio plans on playing.”

“You can go with that,” Jones said.

Blank made a statement that Jones would be a “Falcon for life.”

Pro Bowl wide receiver Antonio Brown was traded from the Pittsburgh Steelers to the Oakland Raiders over the offseason. While that relationship is off to a bumpy start, the Falcons, like much of the NFL, were closely monitoring the situation as Brown’s renegotiated contract called for $54.1 million, with $30.1 million guaranteed, to temporarily set a new bar at the position.

Jones did not participate in offseason activities in 2018 and settled on a contract adjustment before the start of training camp. The Falcons agreed to improving Jones’ contract after it was adjusted July 27, 2018.

CBS Sports NFL business analyst Joel Corry, over the offseason, projected that Jones’ deal would take on $60 million of new money over three years.

“You take his base salary down to the league minimum and give him a $20 million signing bonus,” Corry said.

Cleveland Browns receiver Odell Beckham is the only other receiver averaging $18 million a year.

When Jones deal is done, the Falcons will have wrapped up a busy financial period, as the team has worked out contract extensions with defensive tackle Grady Jarrett and middle linebacker Deion Jones this offseason.

The Falcons reportedly restructured Jake Matthews and Ricardo Allen deals. The Falcons also released cornerback Robert Alford, right tackle Ryan Schraeder and defensive end Brooks Reed and did not tender Brian Poole in cost-cutting measures. The team released kicker Matt Bryant, but ended up re-signing him when his replacement was not up to the task.  


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