Simply put, cap room realities and Atlanta’s desire to contend in 2021 mean that Matt Ryan in particular and Julio Jones to a lesser extent are unlikely to be moved. We have said again and again that this offseason is wide open for the team, but those trades were unlikely scenarios for this football team, and most fans were well aware of that.
With the recent Matthew Stafford-Jared Goff blockbuster, there was some renewed interest in understanding what Matt Ryan might fetch in a trade. The NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero is here to throw cold water on even those speculative discussions, saying the team has not held any trade talks for Ryan and Julio and both remain unlikely to move.
Certainly there are fans (and members of our staff!) who have been more willing to entertain trade thoughts than others, chiefly out of a steadfast belief that this roster would be better served by a true rebuild and securing a man who could potentially be their next franchise quarterback. This report is not news, per se, but it slams the brakes on the discussion unless we get a wild curve in the road ahead. That’s a working analogy, right?
The big questions following this are, in roughly descending order:
- Does this mean the Falcons definitely won’t trade either? No, because it’s technically possible a team could come along and offer up something Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith simply would not be able to refuse, like a lousy team serving up three first rounders for Matt Ryan. The chances of that are still extremely slim—you’d have a better chance of prying Julio away with a mega deal, if it came to that—but I’d say there’s a teeny tiny chance of a team pushing all their chips to the center of the table for Ryan or Julio in a way that would be impossible for Atlanta to ignore.
That said, if you’re waiting for that move, you’re likely to be waiting until 2022 at the earliest. The Falcons would simply have to eat too much money and would lose two quality veterans in a year they’re expected to push to return to contention.
- Does this rule out the Falcons drafting quarterback or wide receiver early? Absolutely not. Drafting a quarterback in the top five is not off the table—wide receiver might be, but a trade down or day 2 pick can’t be ruled out—and if the team is serious about a best player available philosophy they may find quarterback is their best option at #4.
Why? If this team finds themselves back in contention in the short term, which isn’t a given but is what they’re hoping for, their chances of snagging a quarterback in the top 10 anytime soon probably diminishes. Remember, the Falcons haven’t picked in the top 5 since 2008 and only picked in the top 10 two other times since then, and that was with some frustratingly bad squads in between the playoff-caliber ones. If Atlanta wants to look to move Ryan in 2022 or beyond and wants to set themselves up for the future at the most critical position on the roster, this might be their best shot to do so through the draft for a while. The team, at least, is likely to consider that the case.
For wide receiver, it’s again about planning for life after Julio, but that may not be a need the team wants to throw significant draft capital after in 2021. Julio is still here, first of all, and with Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage emerging last year, there’s a pretty clear pecking order for the top three on the depth chart, at minimum. That doesn’t mean we won’t see a selection, but it’s unlikely to be, say, Devonta Smith.
All of that said, the most appealing move from my perspective is still a move down from #4 with a team like the Broncos or 49ers who might be pushing hard to solve their quarterback needs via the draft this year. The haul they get from that could set them up to ride out the last years of Matt Ryan’s tenure quite well, given the number of holes we know this football team is currently facing.
- Does this mean both will finish their careers as Falcons? Again, no. There just aren’t any guarantees that a new regime will prioritize keeping either one beyond the next year or two, depending on what happens in 2021 and what kind of cap picture the team is facing a year from now. All this really does is make it virtually certain for Ryan and quite likely for Jones that they’ll be Falcons this year, which makes me hope even more fervently that this winds up being a great season.
The upshot of all this is that you should have expected Matt Ryan and Julio Jones to be here in 2021, and you shouldn’t be stunned by reports that the team is not even attempting to move either one at the moment. Everything else is still very much up in the air.