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Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff Wants to Make Julio Jones Highest-Paid WR in NFL

Kyle Newport@@KyleNewportFeatured ColumnistAugust 1, 2019

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (11) runs with the ball after a catch for a touchdown against the Green Bay Packers during an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 9, 2018, in Green Bay, Wis. The Packers won 34-20. (Jeff Haynes/AP Images for Panini)
Jeff Haynes/Associated Press

New Orleans Saints star Michael Thomas took over the title of the highest-paid receiver in NFL history on Wednesday, but his stay in the top spot might be short-lived. 

On Thursday, Atlanta Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff let it be known that his team intends on making six-time Pro Bowler Julio Jones the highest-paid wideout in the league in his next deal, per NFL.com's Jeremy Bergman:

"We know what Julio is in this league. We have a very good idea of approximately where he's going to be, which I won't share specifically. The good thing is we've never been held by our owner to be limiting someone and we're very good with our football players here. We feel very proud of how we approach it.

"And again, where we approach it with Julio, we look at everything, of course. We believe that he should be the highest-paid player—sorry, I did not say player—the highest-paid receiver in the league. And I know he believes that. It's just how we're going to approach this and how we're going to get it done. I believe it's right around the corner but I don't want know when it is."

It's a good thing Dimitroff caught himself and clarified that he wants Jones to be the top-paid receiver, not player. Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson has the highest average annual value in the league at $35 million while Thomas comes in at $19.25 million.

According to ESPN's Mike Triplett, Thomas' new deal is worth $96.25 million over five years, though it could wind up reaching $100 million. If Dimitroff and the Falcons are looking to put Jones above his peers, they now know what it'll take.

And there's no question that Jones will have earned whatever he winds up getting. He is coming off a season in which he hauled in 113 catches for an NFL-best 1,677 yards and eight touchdowns, marking his fifth consecutive season with 1,400-plus yards.

He has led the league in yards per game in three of the last four seasons, including last year when he piled up 104.8 yards per contest.

Those types of numbers have Dimitroff hoping Jones, who has two years remaining on his current deal, will be a Falcon for life, per Bergman:

"We want Julio here for the rest of his career, whatever that is.  know you were going to ask me, Where are you? We're still working on it. I'm not worried about it. We're not concerned about it. We have a great working relationship, not only with Julio, but with CAA and with Jimmy Sexton. We're communicating well. We're not worried about the timeframe of it. ... So there's not a major rush here."

Though it would benefit to wait for Thomas, the Dallas Cowboys' Amari Cooper and the Cincinnati Bengals' A.J. Green to sign extensions, Jones made it clear on Tuesday that he did not care about waiting for the market to set itself:

vaughn mcclure @vxmcclure23

Julio Jones said he’s not waiting for Michael Thomas to get his contract done first. He said negotiating is ongoing. https://t.co/lpQBkQytWE

Ultimately, Thomas wound up signing as negotiations between Jones and the Falcons continue.

While the Falcons look to lock Jones up, it's also worth keeping in mind that they are already paying quarterback Matt Ryan an AAV of $30 million (the fifth-most for a QB) through 2023. That doesn't appear as though it will keep Atlanta from writing a hefty check to Jones, but the team does have to keep the salary cap in mind during negotiations.