Julio Jones has been a hot topic leading up to and now after the draft. Many writers have been putting odds of Jones being moved, considering the best destinations for the future Hall of Fame wide receiver, or even hoping (praying) he stays and continues to do special things with the offensive weapons that have been assembled in Atlanta. This morning, we’re looking at reports and rumors that suggest two things: There’s not a lot of current movement around trading Julio, but the team is still looking to create a market for his services.
Earlier, The Athletic’s Jeff Schultz wrote that the Falcons “would like” to trade Jones, and that as as anticipated, they view Julio and Grady Jarrett as the only two players they consider “viable options” to get them under the cap far enough to sign their draft class and any additional veterans they may want to pick up over the summer. Schultz reports the team has yet to approach Jarrett’s camp about an extension or restructure, and while they recognize Jones will have a limited market owing to his contract rather than his talent, they’re hoping to get enough suitors this summer to create some bidding.
Many teams would like Jones on their roster, but not many realistically can trade for him. The Falcons’ hope is that enough teams (think: three to five) express interest to create a market. Think of 1) teams with enough cap space to absorb Jones’ $15.3 million base salary; 2) contending teams that believe he would put them over the top; 3) young teams looking to take the next step. Among the teams that could fall into these categories: Ravens, 49ers, Patriots, Colts and Chargers. One league source said the Titans also may show interest, but they also are close to the cap ceiling.
With all the smoke around the team’s reported interest in making a deal, it would be fair to assume there was some fire. Certainly some teams are offering up draft capital and/or players for the pass catcher only one hamstrung season away from six continuous Pro Bowl seasons and five first or second team All Pro selections. Julio Jones is, and remains when healthy, a difference maker.
Per Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated, there’s no fire at the moment. The smoke over the last few weeks has not led to a conflagration, or even a small brush fire.
The Raiders were one team I’d actually heard connected to Jones during draft week. Other than that? It’s been quiet on the Julio front.
This is the first connection of the Las Vegas Raiders from a national reporter, with Benjamin Allbright mentioning the possibility before the draft. It would be a disappointing ending (or at least new chapter) for Jones with the Raiders going back to full Raiders and shedding talented players at an alarming rate, but the Raiders have always loved adding late-career veterans.
Breer does toss out the idea that the Falcons will more easily trade Jones after June 1st due to the cap implications. However, this is a bit of an artificial deadline. Trades can be completed but be “official” and effective at a later date. Just this offseason, the Rams and the Lions could not officially talk about their new quarterbacks until the start of the new league year, despite a trade having been completed.
Breer, similar to those other writers contributing to the speculation around Jones, suggests the Green Bay Packers as a smart destination for Jones. After all, the Packers are trying to give their MVP quarterback a reason to pay for them in 2021. However, there are no rumors connecting the Packers to Jones to this point, and they didn’t make Schultz’s list, in part probably due to limited cap space. Schultz’s list makes more sense because it is heavily populated with teams with young, promising quarterbacks who have both some cap space and a need for an elite weapon to help those quarterbacks out. Carson Wentz does not really fit on that list of young, promising quarterbacks for the Colts, but that just puts more pressure on Indianapolis to give him a great supporting cast.
It’s fair to assume that Schultz’s sources on the team’s interest in moving Jones are good, but Jones isn’t going to be traded if teams aren’t willing to pony up the cash and draft picks to get him. Breer probably sums it up best: “if there were a strong market for Jones, I’d think it would’ve materialized by now.” If Jones were going to a contender, Terry Fontenot would have to demand a first-round pick, as in my opinion a late second-round pick should not be enough for Jones. That certainly seems to be a big reason why things have been all quiet on the trade front, but if Schultz is right, this isn’t close to the last time we’ll hear about the possibility of Julio Jones being traded.