Julio Jones and the Atlanta Falcons have agreed to a five-year contract extension worth $71.250 million, per Chris Mortensen of ESPN. The 2x Pro Bowl wide receiver will be guaranteed $47 million of the total contract.Since entering the NFL in 2011 as the sixth overall pick in the draft, Jones has been one of the league's most dangerous wide receivers. In his first two seasons, he scored 18 touchdowns and had 2,157 yards. His 2013 season ended prematurely with a foot injury after only playing in five games.
Before the start of the 2014 season, the Falcons exercised the fifth year on Julio Jones' contract according to the Atlanta Falcons. This was a team option that acted as an extension on his four-year rookie contract. While concerns about his injury history came up, Jones went on to have the best season of his career in 2014. He lead the league in receiving yards with 1,593, had 104 catches, and scored six touchdowns.
This contract extension is really not a surprise to anyone. Over the past few months, talks have heated up over the possibility of Jones signing a monster deal. Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank talked about Jones and the negotiations a few weeks ago in an ESPN article.
"We're in the middle of those discussions," he said. "We expect Julio to be a lifer for the Falcons. We're moving forward and have every reason to be positive and be enthusiastic about it."
Blank went on to talk about the recent new deals that other elite NFL wide receivers have received. Dez Bryant of the Dallas Cowboys and Demaryius Thomas of the Denver Broncos both received five-year deals worth $70 million. While their reception and yardage numbers are similar over the course of their careers, Bryant and Thomas are currently better at scoring touchdowns. The two of them have three seasons with at least ten touchdowns or more. Jones only has one season with double-digit touchdowns in his career. Regardless, Blank views Jones in the same class as them.
"I think whatever the market is in the league, we look at Julio as certainly being in that class," he told reporters.
Teams that were hoping to sign Jones in 2016 will now have to look elsewhere. Adam Caplan of ESPN listed the top 2016 free agents receivers via Twitter.Still, only 26 years old, the five-year contract is likely to keep him in Atlanta for the heart of his prime years. While wide receivers are nowhere near finished at 31 years old, Jones is likely to have his best seasons over this extension.
[Image via Daniel Shirey/Getty Images]