The Atlanta Falcons are making progress during negotiations to sign wide receiver Julio Jones to a long-term deal, according to reports.
"We're moving as quickly as we can," Falcons owner Arthur Blank said, via The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, calling Jones a "lifer". Blank added that Jones, "has been fabulous. He came into camp in great shape. He's working all-out. There is no hesitation or question on his part. We are working with a very professional agent, who actually understands the business. He actually handled the last two wide receivers contracts, which helps a good bit."
Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant and Denver Broncos receiver Demaryius Thomas each signed five-year deals worth $70 million, with Bryant taking home $45 million guaranteed and Thomas signing for $43.5 million guaranteed.
According to an interview with SiriusXM NFL Radio, Blank said he's "very confident" a deal will be completed and will use Bryant and Thomas' deals as a template.
"I think whatever the market is," Blank said via the Atlanta Journal Constitution. "We look at Julio as certainly being in that class. The specifics, his length of contract and where he is in his contract terms is different than those players were. All of that needs to be built into the new deal that is done. We view him as one of the top receivers in the NFL and we think that most people do as well."
Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green, playing the fifth year of his rookie deal, will probably command something similar to Bryant and Thomas, as well as Jones if he signs an extension soon.
However, because the Bengals are notoriously frugal with guaranteed money, it could be difficult for Cincinnati to reach a long-term deal with Green. Jones and Green are facing identical situations as former first round picks from the 2011 NFL draft, playing on the final year of a four-year deal that was optioned to a fifth season this year.
Looking back at the recent players Cincinnati re-signed to long-term deals, quarterback Andy Dalton took home a team-high $17 million in guaranteed money. Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap signed guarantees worth $15 million and $11.7 million. Even Michael Johnson, Cincinnati's prized free agent, who returned home this offseason, signed a deal with $4.5 million guarantees.
"Signing Green long term may be a challenging proposition because of Cincinnati's preferred structure with lucrative veteran contracts. The team's contracts are typically light on guaranteed money because of the absence of base salaries guarantees," writes former sports agent Joel Curry, now with CBS Sports.
"Quarterback Andy Dalton's six-year extension with a base value of $16 million per year has a team high $17 million in guarantees. The Bengals will likely have a hard time convincing Green that a contract with less than half of the guaranteed money as his peers is appropriate. Since reinventing the wheel structurally will be a difficult proposition for Green, it won't be a surprise if he plays at least one year under a franchise tag."
Bengals owner Mike Brown remarked earlier this year about how much money it will take to keep Green, either through a long-term deal or the franchise tag, especially with so many players entering free agency after this season. "Our problem is what you just said, the money is so big. We are going to have a finite cap room with a handful of players who are going to be eligible for free agency."
Despite the media's fluid methodology to ask the same question seeking different responses, and despite Green thanking Thomas after the Broncos' receiver reached his agreement, Green has been consistent about his position that his "time is coming."
"All that contract stuff really doesn't bother me, because when you put in the work, the body of work I've put in, it speaks for itself," Green said last month.