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The Julio Jones trade was the right move for the player and hopefully the Falcons

Letting go is hard, but it’s what the Falcons owed their franchise great.

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Minnesota Vikings Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports

In the end, Julio Jones wanted out and Julio Jones got out. The Falcons and the player will both move on, hoping for more successful days ahead.

He’s right to want more. A player of Jones’ caliber and character deserves to enjoy a storybook career, and he’s pushing for the kind of ending to his story that he wants. Good on him. At 32, Jones is playing for his legacy. He wants to win, and in this new era of Atlanta Falcons football, the wins might not fall right away.

That’s okay for Atlanta (as much it stinks) — despite relying on veteran Matt Ryan for now, this team’s future is very much up in the air, to be shaped by the new decision-makers. A new quarterback might be in the cards in 2022 or 2023, Ryan might prove to be exactly the right man to helm Arthur Smith’s offense, and we just don’t know what’s going to happen or how successful this team will be. One thing is abundantly clear, though: maybe the best player in franchise history doesn’t think the team can win right now, and he wants to continue his career elsewhere.

By the time you’re reading this, Nashville is celebrating the arrival of Julio as he’s been traded to the Tennessee Titans. Jones will be wearing a different jersey next year. It sucks. It sucks a lot. But it was the right thing for the Falcons to do, and given the fact that they hadn’t made any other moves to free up cap space in recent weeks, the only move they saw in front of them.

I really didn’t expect to write that sentence until we all found out Julio wanted out. As embarrassing as the Shannon Sharpe debacle was (there’s no way Jones knew he was on air, right?), it enlightened us all to a new reality: Jones was part of the equation that felt his time in Atlanta had run its course, and that it was time for a new challenge, a new opportunity to win in Tennessee.

Is it flattering that Jones thinks the Falcons can’t win? Not really, but they did just go 4-12. It’s not that surprising. The Falcons will get at least one draft pick, if not another or a player, for Jones’ services, and then they’ll just keep trying to win with Matt Ryan, Calvin Ridley and rookie Kyle Pitts leading the offense. Jones will go to a team with Derrick Henry and A.J. Brown (but, still, a suspect defense) to try and win a ring. And that will be that.

It’s still the right thing, though, for Jones and the team’s long-term future.

Julio deserves to win. As badly as I want that to be in a Falcons uniform, who are we kidding? The guy single-handedly tried to win us a Super Bowl, only to see it snatched from his immaculate grasp. He’s the best Falcon, depending on who you talk to. He did everything he was supposed to do. He was allowed to ask for a trade. It’s not that uncommon for a player of his caliber on a bad football team to want out; it’s just sobering that it came to this point.

While they didn’t get enough in return—how do you get enough for Julio Jones?—the Falcons didn’t complicate the process. Trading Jones seemed like a fool’s errand before we knew the Jet was ready to launch elsewhere. Now? It was probably the best path forward if he really was this disgruntled with the organization. The worst thing the Falcons could’ve done was play a public game of pettiness and refuse to grant his request.

If they were a player away from a Super Bowl, Jones wouldn’t have wanted to leave. The Falcons are realistically a season or two away from really contending for one, assuming things break right with the new staff and future personnel decisions. Can you really blame Jones for wanting a better chance at winning while he’s still playing well?

It really never made a ton of sense to trade Jones and keep Matt Ryan until we all knew who reportedly made the first move. The Falcons closed the Jones saga with the team with respect by sending him to a contender . It stinks that it has to be this way — we all wanted Jones to retire a Falcon. Who knows what the future holds, but this is a very sad departure. The compensation wasn’t amazing; it doesn’t match what Jones will give the Titans. If that was the best offer they got, then what a disappointment. Jones will outdo, once again, the trade terms for the team that wanted him.

Ultimately, it’s ... sigh ... for the best. The team is honoring the legacy of its best player (arguably) by granting his request and letting him chase a championship elsewhere. The Falcons will pick up an early round pick, clear cap space, and over the long haul will be fine, assuming they don’t Falcon things up yet again. It was better to respect that the end was coming than try to draw it out, just to end up in the same place in a month or a year. A trade has happened, and it was the right move.