The Atlanta Falcons have been in salary cap hell for a few seasons now, and it's still going to take a couple more years for the organization to open the gates to greener salary cap pastures.
So reading Tuesday morning about the restructuring of a contract for a wide receiver very much part of Atlanta's salary cap woes is liking pouring salt in an open wound.
The Falcons made wideout Julio Jones the highest-paid receiver in the league two years ago. In May, new general manager Terry Fontenot traded Jones for less than what he was really worth -- that large contract being a big reason why.
On Tuesday, Jones and his new team, the Tennessee Titans, completed restructuring his deal. According to ESPN, the Titans converted $14 million of Jones' salary into a signing bonus, which created more than $11 million in cap space for the 2021 season.
Unfortunately, this restructuring gives the Falcons no relief for their salary cap this fall or in 2022. Next year, Jones will count as $15.5 million towards the Atlanta salary cap before his contract comes off the books for the 2023 season.
The Titans also added two void years to Jones' contract, which originally ran through 2023. By doing that, Tennessee spreads out the new $14 million signing bonus against the salary cap over five years instead of three.
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Jones was more than happy to oblige to this restructuring (if indeed he was even asked, as often there is simply a built-in contractual switch to flip). Fans sometimes mistake "restructuring" for pay cut. It almost never means that in the NFL. By restructuring his contract, Jones gets paid the same amount, and actually, he will now receive his money sooner. The $14 million signing bonus will be paid to him immediately instead of over the course of the years that remain on the deal.
The receiver will have a base salary of $11.513 million each of the next two seasons.
So not only did Jones get shipped out of Atlanta as he wanted, his new team reworked his contract as he reportedly wanted. Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk writes that Jones' new contract details indicate that he may also be primed for one more big payday.
It's all a hard pill to swallow when the Falcons bent over backward - at least in their minds -- to ensure Jones was paid well and remained a "Falcon for life."
This could be just the beginning of a tough year for Falcons fans with Jones. If Jones does indeed get one more big payday, he will have to be healthy and post some big numbers for Tennessee this season.
Jones contributed a lot to the Falcons over his decade in Atlanta. The fanbase should wish him well. Still, it won't be easy watching Jones become one of the best receivers in the league once again with the Titans if that happens this fall.