Atlanta Falcons superstar receiver Julio Jones may get traded this offseason, but any team that strikes such a deal may need to be prepared for an imminent contract negotiation.
Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reported on Monday that "according to a source familiar with Jones’ past contractual expectations, the team that trades for Jones needs to account for the very real possibility that Jones will want a new deal."
Jones, 32, is set to make $15.3 million this season, $11.5 million in 2022 and $11.5 million in 2023. While he's currently on the three-year, $66 million contract he signed in 2020, $25 million of that deal came in the form of a signing bonus.
So Jones could potentially argue to a new team that the yearly figures on his base salary are now below market for a player of his stature. His $15.3 million in base salary for 2021 ranks fifth among active receivers, per Spotrac, which seems to be in the ballpark of where he should rank at the position in terms of compensation.
But his 2022 base salary drops to 13th at the position, while his 2023 mark is 12th. Jones will argue that those numbers put him well below market value, given that he remains one of the game's true superstars at the position.
The counterargument, of course, will be that the average annual value of the contract he originally signed sits at $22 million, second only to DeAndre Hopkins ($27.2 million), per Spotrac.
Any team that trades for him may argue that just because they didn't pay Jones' signing bonuses doesn't mean he didn't receive them on his current deal, and that his base salary payouts don't accurately represent his compensation or leave him on a below-market deal.
But if Jones wants a reworked contract, those arguments will fall on deaf ears, a factor any team will have to weigh while they consider what compensation they might be willing to part with to land Jones in a trade with the Falcons.
As for what that compensation might be, Peter King of Pro Football Talk reported Monday that he was "told a while ago by a source I trust that the Falcons would accept a hard second-round pick in 2022 (no condition on Jones’ playing time) with no responsibility to pay Jones any of the $38 million he has coming. That seems like the most logical outcome, and my guess is a hard second-rounder is already on the table from some team."
Albert Breer of The MMQB added that both the Baltimore Ravens and Tennessee Titans have had "internal discussions" about dealing for Jones.