The Big LeadThe Big Lead

Julio Jones Contract With Falcons Could Signal Change in NFL Contracts Moving Forward

At least one more NFL star signed an extension this week. But this contract is different than all the others.

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones signed a three-year, $66 million contract extension that locks him with the team through the 2023 season, with $64 million due upfront.

This will make Jones the highest-paid wide receiver in NFL history when the extension kicks in, and sweetest of all, nearly the entire contract will be guaranteed. The 97 percent guaranteed-money figure is the highest amount by far for a non-quarterback, surpassing the deal signed by Lions defensive end Trey Flowers this March (74% guaranteed).

Jones’ case is a stark contrast with other NFL players, most damning of all fellow wide receiver Antonio Brown. Like Brown had in his final season in Pittsburgh, Jones made his case for a new contract over this offseason. Unlike Brown, Jones did so while reporting to training camp and performing his job to the best of his ability, even as he rehabilitated from a foot injury.

More importantly, Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank’s handling of Jones is a contrast with other, similar cases this off-season, including the recently-ended holdout of Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott and the ongoing holdout of Chargers running back Melvin Gordon. While some teams are willing to haggle to save a few million dollars on their best players, even risking the loss of their services for a few games, others such as the Falcons are willing to bet the farm to retain their own stars for as long as they can.