ATLANTA—Julio Jones has responded in kind to the front office's apparent bombshell of neither budgeting an imminent contract extension nor short-term salary bump for the All-Pro receiver.
According to NFL.com, Jones plans to miss the beginning of training camp (players report on Thursday night) and would be 'comfortable' with sitting out that entire period in July and August, if the Falcons don't renegotiate his existing contract.
The whole 'Will Julio show?' topic has been a national conversation for the last three months, starting with the later-confirmed whispers of Jones skipping the team's Organized Team Activities workouts in May and mandatory minicamp in mid-June.
So, in that vein, Jones' major gamble for training camp shouldn't be a major surprise to ardent NFL followers, especially those living in Atlanta.
Of course, things certainly get more expensive from here.
**The Falcons still reserve the right to fine Jones nearly $85,000 for missing the three-day minicamp.
**Training camp fines, however, can be as high as $40,000 per day with vested veterans.
PHOTOS | Julio Jones
Is Jones (four-year average: 103 catches, 1,579 yards, 6 TDs) willing to risk at least $800,000 in fines for missing all of training camp?
By extension, are the Falcons prepared to levy such a huge cumulative penalty against arguably their greatest playmaker—knowing it could fracture the relationship, long term?
Jones, who signed a five-year, $71.26 million extension in 2015, has three years left on his existing deal. For the 2018 season, he'll garner a base salary of $10.5 million (source: Spotrac.com).
At the NFL owners meetings in May, taking place in suburban Buckhead, Atlanta owner Arthur Blank expressed optimism Jones would remain a Falcon For Life.
"I love Julio. He loves me. He loves Atlanta. He's going to be here forever," Blank told 11Alive Sports reporter Alex Glaze, during an impromptu and exclusive one-on-one chat.
Regarding Jones' supposed demand for a new or 'updated' contract, Blank kept it simple two months ago:
"We'll talk to him directly about that, and that's between us and him. We've always treated our players respectively, competitively and done whatever we have to do to make a winning team on the field."
Jones' contract dissatisfaction might be a bone of contention on three different levels:
a) The receiver front: For his next deal, Jones likely wants to stay competitive with Houston's DeAndre Hopkins (five years, $81 million ... signed in 2017) and Tampa Bay's Mike Evans (five years, $82.5 million ... signed in 2017), while keeping an eye on Odell Beckham Jr.'s prospective contract extension, which could approach the $90 million mark.
b) The quarterback front: Jones and Matt Ryan may be great friends off the field, but Julio might also loathe having a base salary that's roughly one-third of his quarterback.
In May, Ryan became the NFL's highest-paid player, to the tune of five years and $150 million ... with a league-record commitment of $100 million in guaranteed money.
c) Perception can often be 'reality' in NFL circles; and for Jones' sake, he would seemingly have more power negotiating one last mega-payday in his 20s—compared to waiting until next spring, when the five-time Pro Bowler turns 30 years old.