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Falcons GM optimistic about Julio contract talks

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FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Atlanta Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff continued to express optimism about the progress of contract talks with Julio Jones, without putting a timetable on reaching a new deal with the star wide receiver.

Jones reported to training camp Monday without a new contract. The six-time Pro Bowler said in the offseason he trusted team owner Arthur Blank’s word when Blank said a deal would be completed in a matter of time.

Jones spent the first two days of training camp primarily rehabbing on the side following a minor offseason foot procedure [bunion removal]. Coach Dan Quinn emphasized that Jones not being a full participant in practice has to do with rehabbing, not the contract talks.

“We have the utmost faith that Julio is coming here and he’s taking care of his business while he’s here, and we’ll keep plugging away with [Jones’ agent] Jimmy [Sexton],” Dimitroff told ESPN on Tuesday. “We have a very good working relationship and respect for Jimmy Sexton and CAA, and I’m confident [the deal] will get done.”

Jones has two years and $21 million left on his contract. The Falcons renegotiated his current deal last year, netting Jones an extra $2.9 million for 2018. He signed the renegotiated deal on July 27.

Dimitroff addressed the possibility of Jones’ camp waiting to see what happens with contracts for other top wide receivers, such as Michael Thomas from the New Orleans Saints. The market could soar up to $20 million per year, which would make it logical for Jones to want to wait and see. Cleveland’s Odell Beckham Jr. currently leads the way at $18 million per year, while Jones stands 12th at $14.25 million.

“I understand that, from a business standpoint,” Dimitroff said of waiting for the market to be set. “Do I agree with it necessarily? That’s not for me to argue about.”

Dimitroff also acknowledged language in the collective bargaining agreement which states how a player’s contract cannot be renegotiated to increase the salary from the original terms for a period of 12 months after the most recent renegotiation. A source explained to ESPN that such would apply in Jones’ case (from July 27) if his aggregate cap number over the next two years in a new deal exceeds the current aggregate cap number of $26,359,334 for 2019, 2020.

However, Dimitroff was cautious not to point to the CBA rule as the holdup in contract talks.

“It would make it more free-flowing to negotiate outside of the year with the guidelines,” Dimitroff said. “That’s not to say that’s why we’re not getting something done right at this moment. I’m saying logically stated that, of course, [the rule] can play into it. But I do not want to answer for Jimmy Sexton.”

Sexton could not be reached for comment regarding the status of negotiations.

Overall, Dimitroff feels confident about how talks have progressed and how Jones has handled the matter with professionalism.

“Julio’s been nothing but great with us over the years,” Dimitroff said. “Even last year, when it got a little bit dusty during that time, we were able to sit down and work through it. I thought we worked through it cleanly.

“We understand being the highest-paid receiver in the NFL. And the fact that Julio is approaching it the way he is is appreciated. That said, we expect nothing less from Julio Jones, one of our main leaders on this team.”

The Falcons reached pre-training camp deals with defensive tackle Grady Jarrett and linebacker Deion Jones. Jarrett, who received the franchise tag, signed a four-year, $68 million deal with $42.5 million guaranteed. Deion Jones signed a four-year, $57 million deal with $34 million guaranteed.

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Mike Ditka, Rob Gronkowski and Gene Upshaw make NFL’s All-Time Team

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Hall of Fame tight ends Mike Ditka, Kellen Winslow, John Mackey and Tony Gonzalez have been selected to the NFL’s All-Time Team.

Joining them on the squad is recent retiree Rob Gronkowski.

The league revealed the tight ends and offensive linemen for the squad on Friday night. A 26-member panel is making the selections as part of the NFL’s celebration of its centennial season.

Tackles on the team are Hall of Famers Anthony Munoz, Forrest Gregg, Art Shell, Roosevelt Brown, Jonathan Ogden, Cal Hubbard and Walter Jones.

The guards are Jim Parker, John Hannah, Larry Allen, Gene Upshaw, Dan Fortmann, Randall McDaniel and Bruce Matthews. Again, all are enshrined in Canton, Ohio.

At center, players chosen include Mike Webster, Dwight Stephenson, Jim Otto and Mel Hein, all Hall of Famers.

Indeed, Gronk, who won’t be eligible for another four years, is the only non-Hall of Famer selected.

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Seahawks rule out Jadeveon Clowney vs. Panthers

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RENTON, Wash. — The Seattle Seahawks have ruled out defensive end Jadeveon Clowney for Sunday’s game against the Carolina Panthers.

Already dealing with a core-muscle injury since Week 10, Clowney missed practice Wednesday and Thursday with an illness and returned Friday as a limited participant. The team initially listed him as questionable before downgrading him to out.

The Seahawks (10-3) could be down a pair of pass-rushers against the Panthers (5-8). Ezekiel Ansah, who missed the Seahawks’ Sunday night loss to the Rams with a neck injury, is questionable to play at Carolina and will be a game-time decision.

Cornerback Shaquill Griffin (hamstring) and tight end Luke Willson (hamstring) are also questionable and will be game-time decisions.

With Mychal Kendricks (hamstring) out again, rookie third-round pick Cody Barton will make his second straight start at strongside linebacker.

Prior to Clowney being ruled out, coach Pete Carroll said the defensive end had been “pretty sick” this week but sounded hopeful he’d be OK by Sunday. Several Seahawks players have gotten sick since the week of Thanksgiving.

Clowney is tied for the team lead with three sacks this season and ranks fifth in the NFL in ESPN’s pass rush win rate at 25.1%. He missed the team’s win over Philadelphia in Week 12 because of his core-muscle injury, which is something he said he’ll have to manage for the remainder of the season after deciding to put off surgery.

Wide receiver Tyler Lockett (shin) was listed as a full participant Wednesday and Thursday.

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Dolphins sign WR DeVante Parker to 4-year contract extension

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DAVIE, Fla. — The Miami Dolphins have signed receiver DeVante Parker to a four-year extension through the 2023 season, the team announced Friday evening.

Parker’s four-extension is worth up to $40 million with an $8 million signing bonus and more than $20 million guaranteed, according to a source.

In his fifth year in the league, Parker is in the midst of his breakout season. He has a career-high 882 receiving yards and six touchdowns this season, and maybe most importantly he hasn’t missed a game yet for the first time in his NFL career.

“My desire was to have DeVante remain a member of the Dolphin family and we are excited for the future in Miami,” agent Jimmy Gould said in a statement.

The Dolphins’ offense has centered around Parker since Preston Williams went on injured reserve in early November. Parker has established a strong connection with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who has called him the “most consistent part of our offense.”

Playing 16 games and reaching 1,000 receiving yards were two of Parker’s individual goals this season. Parker is 118 receiving yards shy of his first 1,000-yard season, something that is important to him.

“It would be amazing to get it. I’ve never had it since high school,” Parker said. “The team is No. 1, but everybody has goals, and that definitely is one of mine.”

In March, Parker signed a new two-year deal with a team option for 2020. It was essentially a prove-it deal coming off the worst season of his career in 2018. He responded by taking care of his body with better eating and hydration, acupuncture and weekly massages.

The Dolphins’ coaching staff, led by Brian Flores, gave Parker a clean slate. Receivers coach Karl Dorrell told him stories of his experience with Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Marshall and challenged Parker to be the player he was coming out of Louisville.

Parker did that, and he’s felt more comfortable than ever in the Dolphins’ new scheme.

“Staying healthy was my top goal,” Parker told ESPN last week. “That has helped change everything. These coaches believed in me. They gave me a second chance when they didn’t have to. I hope I can be here a long time.”

Parker, Miami’s first-round pick in 2015 (14th overall), is rewriting his narrative after four seasons full of injuries and inconsistency. He’s finally showing the potential that made him so tantalizing and the Dolphins rewarded him for it.

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