By PAUL NEWBERRY, AP Sports Writer
ATLANTA (AP) — Stifled by the salary cap, the Atlanta Falcons won’t be offering Julio Jones a more lucrative contract.
Not this year, at least.
Now the question is: Will the star receiver show up for training camp?
The Falcons informed Jones several weeks ago that they would not renegotiate his current $71.5 million package, which still has three years remaining and included $47 million in guaranteed money, according to a person familiar with the discussions. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Thursday because the talks have not been made public.
The team’s decision, which was first reported by The Athletic, does not preclude talks after the season on a deal more in line with Jones’ status as one of the NFL’s top receivers. But the Falcons do not believe they have enough financial leeway under the cap to renegotiate the contract in 2018.
The team hasn’t been told if Jones will be at training camp. Players are required to report next Thursday, with the first practice the following day.
Atlanta already agreed to a five-year, $150 million extension with quarterback Matt Ryan, the most lucrative deal in NFL history. The team is also focused on working out new contracts for defensive tackle Grady Jarrett, offensive guard Jake Matthews and safety Ricardo Allen.
A flurry of new contracts during the offseason dropped Jones, who makes an average salary of $14.25 million, out of the top half-dozen on the list of the league’s highest-paid receivers. Tampa Bay’s Mike Evans, Cleveland’s Jarvis Landry and Kansas City’s Sammy Watkins are among those now making more per year than Jones, a two-time All-Pro who caught 88 passes for 1,444 yards last season.
In 2015, Jones turned in one of the greatest seasons by a receiver with 136 receptions for 1,871 yards and eight touchdowns. He is a five-time Pro Bowler.
In an apparent sign of his unhappiness, Jones skipped organized team workouts at the team’s training facility this summer, as well as a mandatory minicamp. But he apparently took part in Ryan’s private passing camp in California along with about a dozen of his teammates this month.
Jones has gone silent on social media and hasn’t talked with the Atlanta media in months. In one of his rare media appearances, he told TMZ that he has a good relationship with the franchise that pulled off a huge trade with Cleveland to make him a first-round pick in 2011.
“Everyone wants a story right now. There’s no story to be told,” Jones insisted. “I’m just working on getting myself better. I’m just working on myself right now. That’s all that is. There’s no bad blood between me and the team or anything like that.”
Jones remains in the good graces of coach Dan Quinn, who didn’t seem at all upset when Jones skipped the minicamp .
“Sometimes football and business intersect,” Quinn said. “That’s OK and that happens a lot.”
Quinn has talked constantly of “brotherhood” and making sure players do everything as a team. For instance, the players stood together as a team on the sideline during the national anthem for all games after two players kneeled in protest early in the 2017 season.
Quinn doesn’t think Jones’ absence has affected the Falcons’ unity.
“Do we want everybody here all the time? Hell yeah, like all the time,” the coach said. “What I’d say is if you ask to a man, the guy is a hell of a teammate, and the time he spends here, the way he mentors people, how hard he plays, there is plenty of brotherhood in Julio.”
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