For the last few years there has been a great debate of who is considered an “upper-tier” NFL Wide Receiver. And for a good while it felt like it was really pointed at 4: Antonio Brown from Pittsburgh, Odell Beckham, Jr. for the Giants, Dez Bryant for Dallas and the Falcons Julio Jones.
And it was an interesting situation among the 4. Brown has a bit of flash to his play. OBJ has been a polarizing/controversial figure over the years with the things he’s said and done both on and off the field. Bryant has been known as one of the most fiery guys around.
And then you have Julio Jones. He seldom speaks. He isn’t a flashy guy (though has made some improbable catches over time, including one that SHOULD HAVE BEEN the game-winning Super Bowl catch but as a Falcons fan I won’t rip open that band-aid again). Finally he has been a professional to his team, the organization, and the city of Atlanta. Had this situation happened last year instead of this year, I don’t think anybody in the town would argue on the idea of Julio getting a new contract.
But 2017 happened.
If you look at Julio’s numbers, you go “oh, well he has the stats of a premier receiver” and I would say you would be right. He’s had over 1,400 receiving yards the last 4 seasons and has caught 80 or more passes in each of the last 4 seasons as well. All impressive feats.
However, this is when the statistics don’t 100% accurately make up what Julio has done (or didn’t do). First thing is Julio had only 3 touchdown receptions in 2017. You can look at a lot of reasons for it. 1. Teams double and triple-teamed him in the red zone. 2. Play-calling by the Falcons offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian was porous. 3. Other guys didn’t take the load off Julio like they did in 2016.
But here is the other thing: Jones was tied for 2nd for the most dropped passes in the NFL last year, including one more than the ridiculed now ex-Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant. And when it came to that needed catch late in games when one score was decided, Julio dropped key passes. Of course I’m pointing out the Panthers loss where Atlanta had a 4th down opportunity and pretty much no Panther was in a mile’s radius of Julio and Ryan threw a near perfect pass where Julio bobbled and dropped it.
Some fans went “okay, that is a rare thing that won’t happen again.” But then what was to me as unforgivable was in Week 16 when Julio pretty much pulled himself out of the game on a key third down against the hated Saints and was subbed by Marvin Hall. Ryan threw it to Hall, who in turn dropped the pass, and had it deflect on a “butt interception.” A few plays later the Saints scored a touchdown and won the game.
To me that stuff you should not expect from a top receiver, especially with one who is in a debate between him and Antonio Brown. Of course my reaction to the Saints game was “well, Antonio would have stayed on the field.”
And it just seemed like when the big play was needed from Julio, it wasn’t there this past year.
Now with Jarvis Landry and Sammy Watkins getting bigger deals, Julio wants to show that he deserves a bigger pay, and in this case, rightfully so. But honestly, I cannot see him get that contract of some of the hiccups he had in 2017 and given he has been battling those nagging injury issues and he’s not yet 30 makes me wonder if Julio picked the wrong off-season to ask for that new deal. At this point if I am Atlanta I would just say “hey, look; we understand your wish. But quite honestly, if you want that update as you call it, you need to show you can continue doing more of what you did before 2017 than what you did. We cannot have key passes dropped or sit out on 3rd downs especially in these important divisional games against New Orleans, Tampa Bay, and Carolina. And we know you have been a cog for us, but we also need to see if you can continue it. If you can show it in 2018, then your bank account WILL be nicer than it is now, but until then, you need to step up and be that premier guy we all know you can be.”
But time will tell on what will happen. To me, the Falcons have other things to worry about on their plate than give Julio a new deal right now. And Julio also needs to know that he has to get back to 2014-2016 Julio where he can absolutely dominate a game to earn a larger contract.
-Fan in the Obstructed Seat