With the news that Julio Jones might miss the rest of the season with a foot injury, we have to talk about who will replace him. The latest on that, first, which is not pretty:
Smith says Julio Jones injured his foot last night. He saw doctors and is going to have second opinion tomorrow in Charlotte.— Jay Adams (@FalconsJAdams) October 8, 2013
``He's going to be a hard guy to replace if we have to replace him,'' Mike Smith said of Jones.— vaughn mcclure (@vxmcclure23) October 8, 2013
The short answer? No one. Jones is one of the five or ten best receivers in the NFL, a supremely athletic talent with a ton of drive who was on his way to a monster season. Even if the Falcons made a big, splashy trade, they wouldn't be getting back a player of Jones' caliber. Any potential replacement is going to be a downgrade from actually having Jones, but there's not a damn thing we can do about that.
As I see it, the Falcons have three options to replace Jones.
Make a trade
I'm not a fan of this. The Falcons are headed for their first season in the Mike Smith where they could potentially have a decently high draft pick. Giving a second rounder away for Josh Gordon would be satisfying in some ways, particularly because Gordon is a great player, but this team's issues run way deeper than wide receiver.
The best outcome in this scenario would probably be a late-round pick for a decent receiver who could step in either across from Roddy White or in the slot, which might be someone like Andre Roberts of the Cardinals. A trade would by necessity need to give the Falcons a player they could use this year as they struggle to stay competitive and someone who could be brought back as part of the team's receiving corps a year from now.
Ultimately, I think the Falcons will see the writing on the wall and keep their picks. Given the holes they need to patch, they'd be smart to.
Sign a free agent
There's not a lot out there. Laurent Robinson and Brandon Lloyd have question marks, and there's simply not a deep pool of talent to dip into. With Roddy White banged up, too, the Falcons may want to grab a decent veteran for insurance.
This seems like the likeliest outcome in many ways, but again, talent isn't jumping out at me when I look at who is available. The best you can hope for is someone who, if healthy, could serve as a decent part-time starter. Nothing to sneeze at, given the team's situation.
In this scenario, the Falcons probably place Julio Jones on IR and call Darius Johnson up from the practice squad. Their trio of starters is something like Roddy, Harry Douglas and Drew Davis, with Cone and Johnson getting a few snaps.
Obviously, this is a pretty brutal downgrade, but it gives the Falcons a chance to truly evaluate Davis, Cone and Johnson and see if they can grow enough as receivers to carve out roles down the line. There may be a pleasant surprise in the bunch, and given the way this year is going, a pleasant surprise would be welcome.
Given that the team isn't going to just concede the season, though, I can't view this as the likeliest outcome.
What are your thoughts on replacing Julio Jones?