Falcons GM wants to make Julio highest-paid receiver


Michael Thomas became the highest-paid receiver in the league on Wednesday, but how long will the New Orleans Saints receiver hold the mantle? And will an NFC South foe take it from him?

That's the expectation from the Atlanta Falcons and general manager Thomas Dimitroff, who are in the throes of contract extension negotiations with star receiver Julio Jones.

Dimitroff told NFL Network on Thursday night ahead of the Hall of Fame Game that their talks with Jones' team have been productive and they expect to reach a deal eventually that will see Jones supplant Thomas.

"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," Dimitroff said. "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."

Thomas broke the bank with a five-year, $100 million extension with $61 million in guarantees. The Saints receiver now leads all receivers in annual average value, while Cleveland Browns receiver Odell Beckham paces wideouts with $65M guaranteed.

That Jones will be in Atlanta long-term is not a question. Both sides have expressed optimism that an extension will get done. Unlike Thomas, who held out before sealing his deal, Jones showed up to and has been participating in Falcons training camp this month.

"We want Julio here for the rest of his career, whatever that is," Dimitroff said Thursday. "I 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."

Jones will not play in the Hall of Fame Game on Thursday and is not expected to play at all in the preseason.

It's been a busy (and expensive) offseason for the Falcons, who have struck extensions with linebacker Deion Jones and defensive tackle Grady Jarrett before turning their attention to Jones. Dimitroff credits a strong foundation and a generous benefactor in owner Arthur Blank with the Falcons working out these extensions with ease.

"I've had myriad conversations with Arthur Blank about this and it really comes down to, we are really, really fortunate to have an owner that will let us be in the market for anyone," Dimitroff said.

That includes Julio, and if Dimitroff's comments indicate anything, that market window isn't closing anytime soon.