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With June 1 on the way, there’s little clarity around what’s next for Julio Jones

We may be closing in on a resolution to the situation, but nothing about it is clear.

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There’s nothing happy or clear about the Julio Jones situation right now. The best receiver in team history could well be on his way out the door. We don’t know when, where, or exactly why, but at the moment the biggest hope to cling to is that teams may not meet Atlanta’s asking price, and reports of a 1st round pick being on the table may have squashed even that.

The rumors are flying, as they have been for months, including from thirsty New England Patriots fans who may or may not have real information about that team’s willingness to fling a first rounder to Atlanta. Right now, though, only a couple of things are clear: Atlanta’s not going down on their asking price and the money they’ll save from a post-June 1 trade makes that a date to watch.

Falcons asking price steep

Presumably, if the Falcons were being offered something killer, they would’ve hammered out at least the rough contours of a deal and used it to try to draw out even better offers. The report from ESPN’s Diana Russini that Atlanta had a first round pick on the table was mighty encouraging, if true, because it would mean we might be getting there.

Mike Florio at ProFootballTalk has doubts.

Teams in the know regard the expectations as “outlandish.” The asking price continues to be a first-round pick and full assumption by the new team of his $15.3 million guaranteed salary in 2021, along with another $2 million in guaranteed pay for 2022.

As Florio notes, the reporting on this has been all over the map, but it’s obvious Atlanta’s hoping to get at least a first rounder plus perhaps some salary relief. If ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler is correct that San Francisco is interested, Atlanta’s not getting a 2022 first rounder from them, and the number of teams with both the cap space to get a deal done and the necessary ammunition in the draft is a very short list.

But for all that, it only takes one time. If Russini’s correct, you’d have to think a first rounder gets the deal done for Atlanta, assuming it’s not a team within the division. At that point, it’d just be about the Falcons trying to shop for a slightly better offer before they make a move, unless they’re keeping that asking price high in the hopes that no one will meet it and they keep Julio around. If so, hopefully they have their Plan B for cap space ironed out.

Post-June 1 is where the action will be

Technically, nothing has been preventing the Falcons from negotiating a trade and waiting for it to go into effect after June 1. If they made the trade official before that time without designating it for post-June 1, they would’ve gotten no cap relief this year, so such a trade would not have made sense.

But now that the post-June 1 deadline is almost here, maybe things pick up. The fact that the Falcons and any trade partner can make a trade official on June 2 and Atlanta can immediately reap the benefits of that cap space makes it an obvious date to watch for a move, especially if teams are finally offering something in the ballpark of what the Falcons are looking for. If they don’t get it, veteran NFL reporter Steve Wyche suggested they could keep fielding calls at least until training camp, hoping a team runs into an injury or just realizes they need Julio.

The rest is unclear

There’s been good reporting on the Julio situation for a while now, starting with Jeff Schultz at The Athletic naming him as a likely candidate to be moved months ago. That reporting has made it clear that the Falcons are looking to move Julio to free up cap space this year.

Since then, though, there’s been a steady pitter patter of reports and rumors that have made that straightforward (if confusing, given the team’s ability to re-work Grady Jarrett’s contract or approach him about an extension) situation a lot less clear. We’ve seen reports that Julio asked to be traded, that perhaps the team’s decision to listen to trade offers for him prompted him to ask for a trade, and that there may have been frustration between #11 and the team dating back years. With all of that in the air and all the rumored destinations, everything feels deeply unsettled and upsetting, even if we are on the verge of finding out what’s going to happen.

There have been enough twists and turns in this saga already that expecting everything to be wrapped up neatly by June 2 is probably foolish. I’d prefer Julio stayed, but if that’s not an option I’d like this rollercoaster ride to be over sooner than later.