In 2019, the Falcons made receiver Julio Jones the highest paid receiver in the NFL. That wasn’t enough to salvage the relationship.
Owner Arthur Blank, in a recent interview with Jeff Schultz of TheAthletic.com, explained that the financial acrimony that began in 2018 and lasted until 2019 created issues that lingered into 2020 and beyond.
“Look back at the Julio situation in 2019,” Blank told Schultz. “We, being [former G.M.] Thomas [Dimitroff], coach [Dan] Quinn, the player and his agent [Jimmy Sexton], were all kind of at odds with each other. We got a contract done. We felt it was very generous. It made him the top paid receiver in NFL history. But for whatever reason, he felt it wasn’t sufficient respect. I don’t know why he’d feel that way, but he did feel that way.”
Schultz asked Blank if the relationship was ever the same.
“No,” Blank said. “Not really. It changed. And if you spoke to the players on the team, not that they would say anything, but I think they would tell you the same thing. . . . He just wasn’t. . . . Look, he gave us 10 great years. He’s going to be a Hall of Fame player. He was a good teammate for all that period of time. [But] his ability or willingness to practice the way he did early in his career was different. There were some people who were in the building who had an effect on him. He wanted out, and the last thing coach [Arthur] Smith wants is a player who doesn’t want to be here.”
Jones definitely didn’t want to be there. And now Jones is gone. It’s a cautionary tale for the Titans; if Jones has a solid season, he’s going to want another new contract. If the Titans resist, they could end up in the same situation the Falcons found themselves in, as of 2018.