Julio Jones Holding Out Creates More Than a Contract Problem for the Falcons
The Atlanta Falcons have a big dilemma as Training Camp is set to kickoff and have no good way to resolve it.
Star WR Julio Jones has decided 2018 is the time for him to hold out, not come to camp in order to get a new contract.
Mind you, I---nor anyone else should interpret this as Jones not playing in 2018, he just doesn't want to go through Training Camp. Though I should add---it is abundantly clear he does want to get paid.
Which creates a multitude of problems for a team that prides itself on being a "Brotherhood".
For those unaware of what this is about: In 2015, Jones signed off on a 5-year, $71+ million contract with $47 million of that guaranteed. (note: NFL contracts are only guaranteed if written into the deal, most are not)
That guaranteed money has already been paid. But that isn't the crux of the problem here.
Jones has sat on the sidelines and watched lesser WR's like Brandin Cooks of the Rams, Mike Evans of the Buccaneers and Jarvis Landry of the Browns get equal or better deals. If you guessed this as being the big problem---you'd be spot on correct.
Now---here's the dilemma facing his team: The Falcons just extended QB Matt Ryan's contract and several others pushing them up to the Salary Cap line, a line they don't want to cross.
2019 presents some opportunities for the team to deal with this and they've told Jones it would be discussed despite not being thrilled about renegotiating a contract with two plus years remaining.
And, short of Jones not playing in 2018---they probably will do just that.
However the message sent is not a good one. By all accounts---Julio Jones is and has been a good teammate who works hard and is good in the locker room. He plays hurt and when not 100%, doesn't complain and does his job....very, very well.
All admirable qualities.....
But....this easily could change some perceptions. No, I'm not in the locker room and I say this knowing full well players are normally very supportive of teammates and others trying to get paid. And barring a career changing injury---Julio Jones should get paid.
Holding out though sends a bad message. From a distance--it comes across that Jones doesn't want to sweat and work with everyone else in the boiling hot North Georgia sun. It comes across as...yeah, I'll just say it---selfish.
Like I said--I get it. Nobody who is aware of his standing in the NFL or any other sport should be happy to see lesser players get paid more money. But if that were the criteria for holding out and getting a contract re-negotiated, teams and players would have to re-do contracts EVERY year. Something that can't happen and won't.
All of which is why I say Jones has a legitimate complaint. But sitting out training camp and publicly complaining about it is not a good or effective way to handle it. I'm pretty sure his current deal isn't going to make Jones file for bankruptcy any time soon. And yes, I know---Football players play at incredible risk of injury and health in a game where there are few if any loyalties or guarantees.
That's why this move is risky from all sides. Jones could and may lose the PR battle here. While a vital piece of the Atlanta machine, the team won't hesitate to play without him. Because he's under contract for 3-more seasons, he's not going to sit out. He will eventually show up.
The question is how will he be received by teammates and fans.
I guess we will find out in about 5 or 6 weeks....