Julio Jones signed a three-year fully-guaranteed contract extension with the Falcons that will make him the highest paid wide receiver in football (and the first to earn more than $20 million/season). The $66 million deal, which includes $64 million at signing, will keep the star pass catcher in Atlanta through the ’23 season; he’ll earn $21 million over the next two years before the new pact takes effect.
Fully guaranteed contracts are uncommon by National Football League standards and no non-quarterback has ever received a greater percentage of their money up-front than Jones will (97%), leading some to speculate “this is the first legitimate step to [NFL players receiving] NBA [like] contracts.” ESPN’s Adam Schefter wrote that one league executive told him “Julio might actually be the tipping point for the NFL to follow the NBA [in terms of guaranteeing contracts].” To be clear, guaranteed contracts are not collectively bargained – guarantees are awarded during individual player contract negotiations. There’s nothing in the NBA CBA that entitles players to a guaranteed contract.
Howie Long-Short: Former Packers GM Andrew Brandt disagrees with Schefter’s source. He says that while Jones’ deal may establish a new normal for the elite player, the plug and play nature of the NFL game means that most players lack the leverage necessary to demand ‘guarantee language’ in their contracts. “If [an NFL player is] going to make noise with a contract holdout, he better be special – or he’s going to be replaced. Perhaps Jones’ deal sets a template for other top ten players in the league [but not for the majority].” Case in point is Melvin Gordon. The Chargers RB made the Pro Bowl last season (he also made it in ’16), is currently holding out for a new contract and “the team has basically told him to do what he wants, they’re moving on.” Los Angeles didn’t miss him in Week 1. The RB duo that replaced Gordon (Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson) combined for 115 yards and a TD.
In addition to being an elite talent, Jones had the leverage in negotiations; the club had vowed to extend his deal after staving him off with a $2.9 million salary bump in 2018. While theoretically the Falcons could have reneged on the promise, Jones reported to camp on time and is considered a model teammate (i.e. he’s not Antonio Brown). Failing to reward a well-respected team captain would have cost the front office – ownership tandem the trust of the players.
There are certainly some who believe “the greasy wheel gets the oil”, but Brandt who spent four years as a certified NFL agent before crossing the street says, “turning the team into an adversary will never work long-term [for a player]; [acting out] may get a reaction and result in some immediate money, but [non-compliant behavior] is going to have a lasting effect [on the relationship].” ‘The Monday Morning Quarterback’ columnist believes that doing things the right way – as Jones has – is the most effective way for a player “hoping, requesting, demanding” a new contract to receive one.
Fan Marino: Speaking of Brown, he’ll make his New England debut this weekend, but Brandt isn’t expecting the troubled wide receiver to impact the Patriots offense the way Randy Moss (another WR who forced his way out of Oakland) did back in ’07. Aside from his belief that “the best predictor of future performance is past performance” (i.e. Brown will quickly wear out his welcome in N.E.), he simply doesn’t see the former Steeler as the all-time great talent Moss was.
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