After signing another NFL contract extension in 2019, rumors have continued to surround the potential of Julio Jones being traded. With trade whispers swirling, what are Jones’ contract situation, his salary cap number, and the Falcons’ options to move on?
Julio Jones’ contract details and bonuses
After being drafted sixth overall by the Falcons in 2011, Jones signed a four-year contract worth $16.2 million. In 2015, he signed a five-year extension worth $71.3 million, then inked another extension in 2019.
The third extension was a three-year deal worth $66 million, with a $25 million signing bonus ($64 million guaranteed at signing). As part of the extension, there was an $11 million option bonus due in 2020. Through the 2020 season, Jones earned a total of $125.3 million in his 10-year career.
Jones still has three years remaining on his contract
The 2021 season will be the first year of Jones’ latest contract extension. When he signed the extension in 2019, he still had two years remaining on the previous deal. Therefore, he has three years remaining on his current deal. If he plays the remaining three years in Atlanta, Jones will have earned $163.7 million during his time with the Falcons.
What impact does Jones’ deal have on the Falcons’ salary cap?
As it stands on May 20, Jones’ contract is due to count $23.1 million against the Falcons’ salary cap. Guaranteed salary makes up $15.3 million, while $5 million is a prorated signing bonus, and $2.75 million is the prorated option bonus.
What options do the Falcons have with Jones’ contract?
The structure of Jones’ contract and the impact it would have on their salary cap severely limit the Falcons’ options. If the Falcons were to release Jones ahead of June 1, a further $17.5 million would accelerate onto the salary cap. In that unlikely event, Jones’ contract would count $40.6 million against the Falcons’ salary cap in 2021.
However, the Falcons could limit the dead money in 2021 by releasing Jones as a post-June 1 transaction. Doing so would stop the remaining $10 million in prorated signing bonus and $5.5 million in prorated option bonus accelerating onto the cap in 2021. The Falcons would have to account for the $2 million in guaranteed salary on Jones’ contract in 2022. Therefore, releasing Jones post-June 1 would leave the Falcons with $25.1 million in dead money. They would then have the remaining $15.5 million in dead money on their salary cap in 2022.
What would happen if the Falcons traded Jones and his contract?
A post-June 1 trade significantly alters the look of Jones’ contract to the Falcons’ salary cap. Doing so would see the Falcons clear the $15.3 million in guaranteed salary. That would leave just $7.75 million in dead money on the Falcons’ salary cap in 2021. The issue is that the Falcons would have to account for $15.5 million in dead money in 2022. With the Falcons strapped with the salary cap this season, saving $15.3 million would be a huge benefit.
How will Jones’ contract shape up for the team acquiring him?
A trade for Jones could be appealing to the team acquiring him. By making the trade, that team would take on Jones’ $15.3 million salary in 2021 and $2 million in guaranteed 2022 salary. If that team were to release Jones ahead of 2022, they would be left with $2 million in dead money, having paid him $17.3 million on a one-year contract.
If the team acquiring Jones were to keep him beyond the 2021 season, they would have plenty of options. Jones is due to have a salary of $11.5 million in both 2022 and 2023. Thus, trading for Jones would see a team signing up for a three-year, $38.3 million contract. While that appears as excellent value, it would be a surprise not to see Jones request a new contract ahead of each of those seasons. If so, that could significantly increase the salary cap cost of acquiring Jones and his contract.
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