The Atlanta Falcons agreed to a $71.25 million, five-year contract extension with Julio Jones on Saturday that compares favorably with recent deals paid to other top wide receivers.
The deal, announced by the team before Saturday night’s preseason game at Miami, was expected. Owner Arthur Blank recently said an agreement would come soon, and he has consistently said he wants Jones to play his full career with the Falcons.
“We could not be more thrilled to make Julio a Falcon for life,” Blank said in a statement released by the team. “Julio has established himself as one of the top wide receivers in the NFL during his career and has already set the franchise record for receiving yards in a season. I am extremely proud of what he has accomplished and he has just begun to scratch the surface in terms of his potential.”
The deal, which keeps Jones in Atlanta through the 2020 season, includes guarantees of $47.5 million. His average salary during the contract is $14.25 million.
Jones was set to earn about $10 million this year, the last season of a four-year deal.
Two other top NFL receivers, Denver’s Demaryius Thomas and Dez Bryant of Dallas, signed $70 million contracts this year.
Jones set career highs with 104 catches and a franchise-record 1,593 yards receiving last season. It was an important bounce-back season for the former Alabama star following the 2013 surgery to repair the fractured fifth metatarsal in his right foot. He broke the same bone in the foot in 2011.
Jones has looked strong and quick this preseason. He caught four passes from Matt Ryan, including one for a touchdown, on the Falcons’ first preseason possession against Tennessee.
Jones said he feels more explosive after losing a few pounds in the offseason.
“Now, on go-balls, I’ve got another gear,” Jones said in training camp.
In his first four seasons, Jones has 278 receptions for 4,330 yards and 26 touchdowns. He earned Pro Bowl selections in 2012 and 2014.
The Falcons’ big investment in Jones began with a bold trade with Cleveland to move up in the 2011 draft. In order to make Jones the No. 6 overall pick, the Falcons traded first-round picks in 2011 and 2012, its 2011 second- and fourth-round picks and its 2012 fourth-round selection.