Chris Mortensen: Julio Jones, Falcons Hope to Resolve Contract in 'Creative Way'

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistJuly 25, 2018

NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 24:  Julio Jones #11 of the Atlanta Falcons walks onto the field during a NFL game against the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on December 24, 2017 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Sean Gardner/Getty Images

The Atlanta Falcons are reportedly seeking a "creative way" to settle an ongoing contract dispute with superstar wide receiver Julio Jones ahead of the 2018 season.

On Wednesday, Chris Mortensen of ESPN reported "both sides still want to resolve the gap" after Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network noted Jones won't report for the start of training camp.

The 29-year-old University of Alabama product is coming off a huge 2017 campaign. He racked up 88 catches for 1,444 yards and three touchdowns in 16 games. He's tallied at least 1,400 receiving yards in four straight seasons.

Jones has limited leverage in contract talks, though. He still has three years left on his deal and has one of the position's biggest paychecks. His $10.5 million base salary for 2018 ranks sixth among wideouts, per Spotrac.

In May, the receiver told TMZ Sports (via John Breech of CBSSports.com) he wanted to remain with the Falcons for his entire career and suggested his offseason absence wasn't contract-related.

"It's not even about that," Jones said. "Everybody wants a story right now. There's no story to be told. I'm just working. I'm getting myself better. I'm just working on myself right now. There's no bad blood between me and the team or anything like that. Everybody on the outside trying to look in and destroy what we built there."

It's unclear when the five-time Pro Bowler will return to the Falcons.

Atlanta opens the preseason August 10 against the New York Jets, but the key date is September 6 when the team begins the regular season by taking on the reigning Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles.