Why Falcons are in tough spot with Julio Jones, contract situation

Julio not reporting to Falcons training camp (2:02)

The Golic and Wingo crew react to Julio Jones' decision to sit out of training camp until he reaches a new deal with Atlanta. (2:02)

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones plans to miss the start of training camp this week because he wants his contract to be reworked, according to ESPN's Chris Mortensen.

Here are some answers to lingering questions regarding Jones' status with the team:

What is Jones' big issue with his contract?

One could say Jones is arguably the best receiver in the league. Although he hasn't stated so publicly, no doubt Jones is upset about not being at the top of the list of highest-paid receivers in terms of average per year and guaranteed money. Jones signed a five-year, $71.25 million extension in August 2015 that included $47 million guaranteed. The $14.25 million average of his contract sits below eight other receivers, topped by Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown ($17 million per year). And the $47 million guaranteed is equal to what Jarvis Landry got from Cleveland and below Tampa Bay's Mike Evans ($55.008 million) and Houston's DeAndre Hopkins ($49 million). Brandin Cooks of the Los Angeles Rams just received a five-year, $80 million extension, which Jones might take as a slap in the face as he seeks to have his contract reworked with three years left. Jones is to make $10.5 million this season, fourth most on his own team for 2018.

So what is the team's immediate response?

The Falcons would argue Jones was already paid handsomely in the front-loaded deal and that addressing a contract with three years remaining would establish a bad precedent. The team is willing to address Jones' contract going into the 2019 season, but wants to prioritize extensions for left tackle Jake Matthews, nose tackle Grady Jarrett and free safety Ricardo Allen.

Is there anything that can be done in the short term to get Jones on the field?

It's unclear how long Jones will hold out and whether that will include regular-season games. However, the Falcons could add incentives to modify Jones' deal. There is no limit to the number of incentives the Falcons could tie to Jones' deal, but adding not-likely-to-be-earned incentives is the typical goal in this type of situation.

How much could a holdout cost Jones?

Jones is subject to a $40,000 fine for each day of training camp missed. He already was subject to an $84,435 fine for missing the team's three-day mandatory minicamp this offseason. For each preseason game missed, Jones would be out the equivalent of one week's regular-season salary ($617,647).

Just how valuable is Jones?

The five-time Pro Bowler has the highest yards-per-game average of all time (minimum 500 catches) at 95.3 yards per game, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Jones would enter 2018 looking for his fifth consecutive season with 80-plus catches and 1,400-plus receiving yards, which would set a NFL record. Jones' 2,853 receiving yards are the most in the NFL over the past two seasons. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, there have been only four players to have 2,500 receiving yards over a two-year span with fewer than 10 total touchdowns. But Jones' nine touchdowns over the past two seasons do not reflect the defensive attention he draws and one-on-one opportunities he opens up for his fellow receivers. Still, he needs to score more, and the Falcons have to look for him more in scoring situations.

What does the Falcons' depth chart at wide receiver look like without Jones?

Well, the immediate replacement would be first-round draft pick Calvin Ridley out of Alabama. He lined up outside without Jones for most of the offseason and should continue to do the same during training camp. Ridley is known for creating separation, which is key as quarterback Matt Ryan and the Falcons try to connect on more plays down the field. Mohamed Sanu started 15 games alongside Jones last season. Justin Hardy was listed behind Jones at the end of last season, while Marvin Hall and Reggie Davis are two young receivers with speed whom coach Dan Quinn is excited about.

How might the locker room be affected by a possible extended Jones holdout?

The reaction could be mixed. Sure, the Falcons as a whole seem to have tremendous respect for Jones. And everyone knows how valuable he is to the team's overall success. But that doesn't mean his absence will go over well with everyone, with the team focused on a Super Bowl return. Jones recently worked out with Ryan and a host of other offensive players in California, so the Falcons obviously aren't turning their backs on him. And Quinn will continue to emphasize the "brotherhood" theme with or without Jones. Ryan's leadership will be key through it all.