Julio Jones has been a top-tier receiver since entering the NFL as a rookie in 2011. Now, rumors are swirling regarding possible trades for Jones. Jeff Schultz, senior writer at The Athletic, wrote that the Falcons would trade the 2010’s All-Decade receiver. Atlanta has a salary cap problem, to the point they cannot currently sign their 2021 NFL Draft class. That cohort includes coveted tight end Kyle Pitts, making moving Jones at least a smidge more palatable.
These rumors began during the NFL Draft. It will be interesting to see if these trade rumors finally come to fruition.
In a shocking development, Shannon Sharpe called Julio while live on the set of FS1’s “Undisputed.” When Jones picked up, he explained to Sharpe that he was “out of there” in reference to the Atlanta Falcons organization. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport quickly provided some clarity on the situation on Twitter.
“Clarity on the situation between the #Falcons and WR Julio Jones: The All-Pro requested a trade from the organization a few months ago, sources say, and the team then agreed to listen to offers. That’s how it began and why it continues.”
The conversation fired back up after a picture circulated with Jones wearing a Dallas Cowboys shirt. However, a trade to the Cowboys was never a realistic proposition to begin with.
Possible Julio Jones landing spots
Jones is still an incredible receiving target. He averaged 85.7 yards per game in 2020 in the nine games he played. He did that despite playing with a nagging hamstring strain that eventually led to his shutdown after Week 13. He’s still an absolute monster, and he’s shown no sign of slowing down outside of that injury.
Jones will begin the 2021 campaign at 32 years old and should realistically contribute at a high level for a few more seasons. So, who can take on that contract and reap the benefits of Jones’ play? Schultz hypothesized the six teams that could be viable.
Suppose the Ravens could go from Marquise Brown and… nothing… to Brown, Rashod Bateman, Julio Jones, and Sammy Watkins as the fourth wide receiver. In that case, they’d be arguably the most terrifying offense in the NFL. It would also provide some clarity on Lamar Jackson moving forward as a passer. However, the Ravens would have to move around money to afford Jones’ base salary of $15.3 million.
Still, we’ve seen the Ravens trade their players away as recently as April 23 when they shipped off Orlando Brown Jr. to the Kansas City Chiefs. Maybe that aggression works in the inverse as well. Jones is still one of the most dangerous receivers in the league when healthy. Jackson already creates matchup problems for NFL defenses. The addition of Jones would mean teams must choose between having an extra defender to fit the run or have help on Jones. That seems like a lose-lose situation for defensive coordinators.
San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers have the available cap space to make a move. They play in one of the most contested divisions in the league. They’ve also proved they can win, despite getting merely average to slightly above-average quarterback play from a healthy Jimmy Garoppolo. Now, they’ve invested in their future with Trey Lance, and they still have Garoppolo (who has competition to motivate him). If their pass rush stays healthy and they receive competent quarterback play, they could compete in the NFC West.
They already have weapons in Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel. Adding Jones to the mix would be a massive upgrade. Alex Mack and Trent Williams are both battling age on the offensive line, and Jones could be a final push towards a championship for the two. However, that would put the 49ers in a very precarious position, were it to be Garoppolo leading them to the promised land. Maybe the franchise lets the rookie start from the get-go or brings him in near the halfway point, no matter what their record is.
New England Patriots
We’ve witnessed this before. An aging receiver heads to the Northeast and breaks every record imaginable. That would not be this. Do the Patriots need a massive upgrade at wide receiver? Absolutely. Do they have the salary cap space? They do right now without any moves having to be made. Should they trade assets for an aging receiver? Probably not. This landing spot for Jones doesn’t seem as realistic as the rest.
The Patriots went 7-9 last season and don’t project as a contender for a Super Bowl run this season. With that said, throwing cold water on them is naive as well. There were a ton of defensive opt-outs in 2020 for the Patriots. Also, Cam Newton did not have a full offseason with the team and will be dealing with a first-rounder in Mac Jones longing for his job. Julio Jones might not take them over the top in 2021, but it would be foolish to count the Patriots out going into the future.
The Colts have a lot to prove after trading for Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz. Last season, Wentz went AWOL on the field. The bad habits he’s always displayed were magnified by what looked like a lack of confidence. Reuniting with Frank Reich could be exactly what the doctor ordered. The Colts owe it to the rest of the roster to try and find quarterback play that will help them compete in the division.
T.Y. Hilton, Michael Pittman Jr., and Parris Campbell are a respectable group of receivers. The offense was already decently efficient with Philip Rivers. Yet, they’re taking a risk with Wentz, so adding Jones should be at least a consideration. A receiving group with those names gives the Colts the clearest picture possible of Wentz. They can get out of his contract after the 2021 season if need be. The Colts have too good a roster to mess about with poor quarterback play.
Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers’ hype train runs seemingly every offseason, and this year has been no exception. Justin Herbert breathed life into the franchise with a fantastic rookie season, and they improved the offensive line with Rashawn Slater and Corey Linsley. Pair that with a trade for Jones and we could be in a full-fledged Chargers frenzy soon.
Los Angeles is already paying two receivers good money. Still, they won’t have to pay their quarterback for the next four years, allowing them the opportunity to make a big run in the coveted “rookie quarterback window.” By the time the money hits for Herbert’s presumptuously monstrous second contract, Julio’s deal will be up, and he’ll be on the back half of his 30s.
Schultz said one league source cited the Titans as a possible landing spot, but that doesn’t make a ton of sense given their lack of salary cap freedom. They lost Corey Davis and could certainly use a complement to A.J. Brown. However, this doesn’t seem like a viable option for Jones unless Tennessee mortgages their future.
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