ATLANTA (FOX 5 Atlanta) - One day before the season opener, Atlanta Falcons receiver Julio Jones finally got his long-awaited contract extension Saturday, agreeing to a three-year, $66 million deal.
The extension is nearly fully guaranteed when he signs. It locks in Jones through the 2023 season and removes a potentially major headache for the Falcons before Sunday's game at Minnesota.
The deal was announced as the team was departing for Minneapolis.
Jones first sought a new contract more than a year ago. He reported for training camp when the Falcons enhanced his current deal and agreed to discuss a lucrative new extension before this season.
Negotiations dragged on far longer than expected, putting in doubt whether Jones would suit up against the Vikings.
In a press release by the Falcons, the team's GM Thomas Dimitroff said that Jones was always part of the team's plan.
"There are a handful of elite receivers and Julio is certainly a part of that group, not only because of his production on the field but his leadership off the field and in the locker room," GM Thomas Dimitroff said. "Julio has been a cornerstone of our organization for several years and we have always intended for that to continue for years to come."
Quarterback Matt Ryan said in a statement that Jones was "a huge part of my career up until this point."
"Obviously, he's an unbelievable teammate. He's a great friend," Ryan said. "I'd love to play with him my entire career. He's one of the absolute best to ever do it. [I'm] certainly lucky to have played with him for as long as I have, and I hope there's a lot more in the tank for both of us."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.