Matt Ryan, Falcons press on without Julio Jones
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — Matt Ryan once again worked without his favorite target Wednesday on the second day of the Atlanta Falcons’ “mandatory” mini-camp, yet the quarterback said he’s not worried about wide receiver Julio Jones being absent and plans to work out with him soon.
Jones appears to be seeking a contract adjustment to bump his pay grade up into the neighborhood of the NFL’s top receivers. Multiple wideouts have received new contracts, leaving him ranked No. 7 at the position with a salary cap charge this season of $12.9 million.
Ryan wasn’t in the mood to talk shop after practice.
“I understand that there’s a business side to this sport, too, and I don’t like to get involved in other people’s business and I don’t like speaking about my business,” he said. “It’s not my place to get into . . .
“He’s such a incredible player, such a talented player, and he’s been working hard. He’s in great shape, so I think he’ll pick those new things up really quickly.”
The question is when?
After logging 88 receptions last season for 1,444 yards and three touchdowns, Jones, 29, was tabbed for his fifth Pro Bowl in seven seasons, including four consecutive.
He has three years left, however, on the five-year, $71.256 million extension he signed in 2015, and NFL teams rarely amend contracts with so much time left.
Ryan, by contrast, recently signed a five-year, $150 million extension ahead of what would have been the final season of his previous deal.
Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff and head coach Dan Quinn have said that the team has been in contact with Jones and his agent, Jimmy Sexton.
Appeasing Jones would be tricky for reasons that go beyond giving him more money. Team officials have to be mindful of allocations.
The Falcons are about $9 million under the NFL’s projected $177 million salary cap with more than $107 million of that committed to offensive players, according to Sportrac.com.
That 64 percent is the third-highest offensive ratio in the league. Eight of the team’s 10 highest cap charges are offensive, including wide receiver Mohamed Sanu ($7.525 million).
A little more than $61 million is committed to defensive players. That 36.4 percent ranks 31st in the 32-team NFL, and the team has several talented, young defenders whose contracts are coming up.
The contracts of starting defensive tackle Grady Jarrett, safety Ricardo Allen and nickel back Bryan Poole run only through this season, and so do those of left tackle Jake Matthews, guard Andy Levitre and running back Tevin Coleman.
Linebackers Deion Jones and De’Vondre Campbell and edge rusher Vic Beasley are up next season.
Ryan’s cap hit of $17.7 million this season will rise to $22.8 million next season and $31.8 million in 2020, when Jones’ current contract calls for cap charges of $14.9 million and $11.426 million.
Together, the two make up more than 16 percent of the Falcons’ cap charges now, and to give Julio more money might lower his charge in 2018, but the numbers would likely rise in the future.
Ryan’s looking forward to working with Jones between the Falcons’ minicamp, which ends Thursday, and the start of training camp in late July.
“We’ll have a group of guys, probably about 12 of us, that are going to get together and he’ll certainly be a part of that ... ” Ryan said. “As far as drama or anything, (Jones) is one of the best teammates you could ever be around.”