The Atlanta Falcons sent a powerful message with last night's huge trade. They want to win, and they want to win now.
Julio Jones is no panacea. He can't suddenly improve the pass rush, and he does little to address persistent questions about this team's depth along the offensive line and at linebacker. He's unlikely to be a miracle.
But by selling off five draft picks, Thomas Dimitroff and Mike Smith signaled that they were going for it. They gave up several quality selections in exchange for arguably the best wide receiver in the 2011 NFL Draft, an explosive talent with size and elite blocking ability who will fit into this offense perfectly. If the Falcons wanted to upgrade the offense in the most immediate and striking way possible, they seem to have succeeded.
Jones has his questions, including injuries and hands, but there's little doubt that he can be molded into a Pro Bowl receiver if he stays healthy and accepts coaching. It's hard to imagine a better compliment to Roddy White, who is a more sure-handed and shorter version of Jones.
In fact, the only reason I didn't spend more time discussing Jones on this site was because I thought there was zero chance the Falcons could get him. I've liked his talent for a long time, but you don't spill a lot of ink on dudes expected to go 15-20 picks before your team picks. I was blown away by the selection, and it seems like the clamored-for end of Michael Jenkins as a starter has come to Atlanta.
I don't completely agree with the philosophy that got us to this point, but the powers-that-be saw a 13-3 roster with a handful of aging key pieces and a lot of young talent. I'm willing to bet that with a little guidance from Arthur Blank, they saw an opportunity to get a potentially elite player and take a real crack at the Super Bowl over the next two or three seasons. With the ephemeral nature of success in the NFL, it's hard to blame them.
The enduring question now will become whether Jones was worth the enormous bounty the Falcons paid to get him. If he proves to be a multi-time Pro Bowler, the answer is probably yes, regardless of what the Browns do with the picks they got from the Falcons. If he doesn't, it's going to haunt Dimitroff for the rest of his days with the Falcons. Undeniably a gamble for the team.
Ultimately, my stance is exactly the same as it was last night. The Falcons gave up a lot more than I would have liked, but Jones is an elite option and arguably the best offensive fit for the Falcons of anyone in the draft. I love the pick, but not what the team had to give up to get it. I'm going to wait to judge this until we see what Jones can do, but for now, I'm thrilled to welcome him to the Atlanta Falcons.
Weigh in, my friends.