Further Review

Steve Hummer's Further Review blog offers comments, asides and quick hits on the state of sports

Could money change Julio Jones - or our perception of him?


 

Nothing is quite so corrosive as money.

It can eat away at marriages and dissolve the iron bonds of old friendships. The question these days around a certain Flowery Branch facility is: Can it break up a Brotherhood?

There is the persistent but unconfirmed belief – no one has actually spoken aloud on the subject – that Julio Jones is unhappy with his contract. His quarterback just got a new deal roughly doubling what Jones pulls down per season. The receiver marketplace has experienced a manic inflation – Sammy Watkins signs for an average of $16 million a year; Jarvis Landry for $15 mil; Davante Adams for $14.5 mil. Odell Beckham Jr. might yet push Jones down another place in the NFL wide receiver salary rankings (Jones is currently eighth).

So, yeah, the sulfuric subject of money has to be very much on the mind of the Falcons grand receiver. 

At this point, we are only guessing what’s going on between the earholes of Jones’ helmet.

That he missed Monday’s Falcons training session is nothing extraordinary – given that he has had the nerve in the past to treat these voluntary exercises as actually voluntary.

That he, or someone, de-Falconed one of his social media accounts is more a testimony to the undue attention we pay such piffle than to any message of actual substance.

This much I pretty much know for certain: The one way for Jones to get very unpopular here very quickly is to start acting aggrieved. Hints and subtle signs are OK. Real outright peevishness would be just a stick in the eye to a fan base that has had no reason but to celebrate Jones. 

Certainly, others of lesser ability are now making more than he (welcome to real life).

Yes, the pay scale for his craft has left him behind a bit. Yet, when Jones signed his five-year deal in 2015, it was he who was advancing the cause of wealthy pass-catchers, becoming the second-highest paid at the time. 

There is precious little sympathy to go around for any athlete not yet halfway through a deal that would pay $71.25 million over five years ($47 million guaranteed). Especially one who only found the endzone three times last season. 

The one way to make a fat-cat franchise look sympathetic would be to start carping about a contract with three-years tread life remaining. Even a Marxist has to recognize that in a salary cap league, there has to be some kind of long-term certainty about who’s making what. Tearing up deals with three years left is not exactly a habit any team can afford.   

The Falcons have shown a willingness to renegotiate on the final year of a deal. They’ve done that with Devonta Freeman and Matt Ryan. But in Jones, here is someone signed into the next decade. The Falcons have many other contractual concerns in front of whatever may or may not be bothering him. There’s a defense to pay, too, you know. 

Again, Jones has said nothing to validate the thought that he is dissatisfied. Maybe he never will. Maybe this is only indulging our need to worry about something when there are no games to occupy us. 

After all, Jones always has been, above all, the perfect teammate. Never a complaint. Never putting himself above the Falcons. Never displaying the diva urges that afflict his position.

Just the thought of Jones taking any kind of unsettling stance for a new contract at this point is so contrary to the personality on display here for the past seven seasons. It will be nice when he puts some of his own words behind this topic. 

I’d say that normally, Jones would be the least likely Falcon to create a disturbance in the Brotherhood. But this is about money, after all. And you can never underestimate how caustic that can be. We’ll see.


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About the Author

Steve Hummer writes sports features for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He covers a wide range of sports and topics.