Falcons’ Dan Quinn expecting WR Julio Jones at June minicamp

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn has had ongoing discussions with Julio Jones about Jones’ absence from voluntary workouts and anticipates his star wide receiver, seeking a pay raise, will return for June mandatory minicamp.

The five-time Pro Bowler Jones was absent at the start of the offseason program in mid-April and did not return for the start of organized team activities this week. Jones has three years and $34.43 million left on the five-year extension ($47 million guaranteed) he signed in August of 2015. However, his average of $14.25 million falls below other receivers such as Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown ($17 million per year), Tampa Bay’s Mike Evans ($16.5 million), Houston’s DeAndre Hopkins ($16.2 million), Kansas City’s Sammy Watkins ($16 million), Cleveland’s Jarvis Landry ($15.1 million), and Cincinnati’s A.J. Green ($15 million).

“Julio and I, we speak regularly, so I was fully aware that he wasn’t going to be here for the start of the offseason program,” Quinn said. “And I was also aware that he wasn’t going to be here this past Monday [start of OTAs]. He’s in great shape. He’s spending some time this offseason working on some of the things he has not even been able to over the last offseason due to some injuries. But I’ll keep the conversations that he and I have private.”

Jones, who attended college at Alabama, has been in Tuscaloosa, Alabama working out with former NFL wide receiver Terrell Owens, among others. Quinn said Jones also has spent time working individually with quarterback Matt Ryan away from the facility. Much was made about Ryan and Jones having the chance to develop an even better rhythm this offseason with Jones being injury-free.

The Falcons hold their mandatory minicamp June 12-14.

“I do expect him to be here, certainly at the minicamp at the end of the offseason program,” Quinn said. “That’s where I’m at.”

Quinn said he did not discuss with Jones the possibility of returning for OTAs.

“I would anticipate him being here, at the latest, by the mandatory camp,” Quinn reiterated.

Neither Jones nor his representation has gone public with contract demands, but the team has known for a while that Jones wants to be atop the list of receivers in terms of salary. And the Falcons seem willing to work with the 29-year-old Jones on the matter after signing the 33-year-old Ryan to a record five-year extension worth $30 million per year and including $100 million guaranteed.

“It will be fine,” team owner Arthur Blank told ESPN when asked about Jones’ contract issues. “It’s just a process we have to go through.”

Quinn typically stays away from contract talk, but he addressed the topic in general terms.

“Do I understand some of it? Yeah, I definitely do,” Quinn said. “I think at this time of year, and as business grows around the NFL, I think that’s pretty common for a lot of players to discuss [contracts] and wonder where that’s at. That’s something that he and I discuss together. But as far as anything past that, unless you guys have spoken to Julio individually or specifically, I think past that would be a lot of speculation.”

The Falcons have prioritize signing left tackle Jake Matthews and nose tackle Grady Jarrett to extensions next, but satisfying the desires of their best player in Jones is likely to be a top priority now. Jones enters 2018 seeking his fourth consecutive season of 1,400-plus receiving yards.

His teammates aren’t too concerned about his absence, either.

“I know when game day comes, he’s going to be ready to play,” free safety Ricardo Allen said of Jones. “That’s all I know. He has good intentions. He plays hard. It’s a business. He’s got to take care of himself. He’s got to take care of his family.”

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