Grady Jarrett? Check.
Deion Jones? Check.
Other guy named Jones who is slightly more important to the team? No check yet.
The Falcons have taken care of significant business this week, signing two key defensive players, but still no business has been done between the Falcons and one of their most significant players, receiver Julio Jones.
He has been jostling for a big-money deal for more than a year, but he still hasn’t gotten one. In 2018, a holdout was avoided by an eleventh-hour Band-Aid along with a presumption that, come 2019, the situation would be addressed with a new, long-term contract.
Training camp opens in three days, and Jones previously has said he won’t hold out. But he based that vow on the vow that was made to him by owner Arthur Blank.
“Mr. Blank gave us his word. . . . That’s golden,” Jones said earlier this month. “[Blank’s] word is that it’s going to get done. . . . There’s no stress on my end. I’m not thinking about it.”
He may be thinking about it plenty if the deal ultimately offered by the Falcons is less golden than Jones expects it to be. Indeed, it’s one thing to intend to sign a player to a contract; it’s another to commit to giving the player what we wants. And it remains unclear what Jones wants, other than: More.
Jones seems to be sensitive to the fact that fans resent players who play hardball to get paid, even though players have no equity, experience limited careers, and endure all of the physical risks. Fans never get mad at teams for squeezing players, but fans hate it when players squeeze teams. Upside-down as that concept may be, Jones seems to be keenly aware of it, while nevertheless attempting to get what he deserves: More.
For the Falcons, the challenge becomes paying Jones more but not so much more that they’re paying for more than what he currently can do. Teams don’t pay for past performance, but in this case that’s precisely what Jones may want — a correction to what has been a below-market deal in recent years, even if that means the Falcons will within the next year or two (or sooner) conclude that they’re paying more than they should be paying for a guy whose best days as a player may be behind him.
For now, a holdout may end up being in front of him, if the Falcons don’t literally put in front of him the kind of more that will get Jones sign his name and move forward.