Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones, considered one of the best reception talents in the NFL, is in the trading market. Just ahead of the 2021 draft, Falcons GM Terry Fontenot said the team would listen to trade offers for the 32-year-old veteran as Atlanta tries to resolve its current Cap Space issues. No deal has been brokered yet, but moving after June 1st is becoming more and more likely. Jones said this week when asked if he would stay with the Falcons, “I’m out.”
It’s not often that an elite receiver becomes available, but the Falcons’ cap situation – per Over the cap, they are one of three teams with less than $ 1 million in space and have plenty of players to sign – got them into that position. Jones has three years left on his contract and a fully guaranteed base salary of $ 15.3 million in 2021. It is expected to cost $ 23.05 million this year and $ 19.263 million in 2022 and 2023. With a reduced cap for this season, teams would have to make some maneuvers to land Jones and fit him under the hat. But there is certainly a market for him. There’s a chance he’ll even get Atlanta into the first round.
So who might be interested and where might Jones end up? What could the hawks get in return? Our NFL Nation reporters served as their teams’ GMs, making realistic offers to Jones, and Falcons reporter Michael Rothstein picked one to take. We asked reporters to only bid if their teams were legitimately playing for Jones, and cap space, WR depth, competition window, and other factors all played a role. For teams that might have made an offer but didn’t, our reporters explained why they chose to exist.
Which team made the best offer and ended up Jones in our simulated market for the talented recipient? That’s how it happened.
Why swap him? | Offers for Jones
Atlanta’s decision | Why some teams passed
Why is Jones in the market?
Jones and the Falcons find themselves in this position for a variety of reasons, very little of which has very little to do with Jones’ actual game on the field. The aftermath of COVID-19 lowered the cap, and former Atlanta general manager Thomas Dimitroff left the team in a massive canopy problem that required the Falcons to perform some maneuvers with some top talent just to create a team with competitive players. Matt Ryan, Jake Matthews and Deion Jones’ contracts were restructured and Dante Fowler Jr. and Tyeler Davison were asked to make salary cuts.
The Falcons have yet to make room to sign their rookies and have two high paying players to dump, swap, restructure, or expand: Jones and Defensive Tackle Grady Jarrett. The team could expand Jarrett as he is a cornerstone of the defense. By the age of 28, Jarrett should have several years of high-profile play left. But other than that, the train is Jones. Fontenot is trying to clean up cap chaos, not create new ones, so restructuring Jones seems less likely. Shortening it should not be an option, nor should it be extended because it still has three years to complete its deal. And yes, it’s worth noting that Jones said this week that he doesn’t expect to return to Atlanta.
In Jones, a team would get a productive receiver who regularly makes spectacular games. Prior to last season, when he missed seven games, Jones had at least 1,394 yards and at least 83 passes in six consecutive seasons. Ryan said Jones made a significant impact on his career, and it’s easy to see why: he’s been one of the game’s top receivers as a seven-time pro bowler and two-time all-pro since the 2014 season. – Michael Rothstein
Could Atlanta keep him?
If Atlanta decided to keep Jones, it could mean doing something to Jarrett’s contract, be it a reorganization or an extension. A reorganization of the deal by either player is postponing the can by a year on cap issues, but if an extension could come between Jarrett and the Falcons – Jarrett said this was his agent Todd France’s purview – Atlanta Jones could theoretically and try to make a full run with this offensive core.
If the Falcons think they are real contenders for the conference title, then maybe this is the way to go. If there are real questions about what’s going on this season (and defense is a big reason for that) then it makes a lot more sense to walk away from Jones. So that brings us to the market for Jones. – Rothstein
Our listings for Jones
We asked our NFL Nation reporters to play GM and come up with realistic offers for Jones to mimic what they thought their teams could actually do. Four offers were received. They are listed here in alphabetical order.
Jamison Hensley’s offer: The Ravens would send the Falcons a second round in 2022 and a fifth round to the Chiefs in 2022 (purchased commercially from Orlando Brown Jr.). The Falcons would pick up $ 4 million of the $ 15.3 million guaranteed salary in 2021.
Why make this offer? Jones would become the trusted No. 1 wide receiver Lamar Jackson missed in his first three NFL seasons. Baltimore wide receivers have ranked bottom in the NFL for catches and receiving yards for each of the last two seasons for the past two seasons.
Rashod Bateman would line up on the outside across from Jones, and Marquise Brown would work from the slot. Sammy Watkins, who was guaranteed $ 5 million this season, would struggle to get on the field. This would be the most talented wide receiver group in the history of Ravens and would create more balance for the league’s longest running offensive. Defense would have to decide whether to stack the box against Jackson and J.K. Dobbins or Double Jones.
Bart Scott explains why the Ravens could make a deep playoff push if they swap for Julio Jones.
Baltimore has very limited space for the salary cap ($ 9.7 million) and would have to restructure a handful of players to make more room – which Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti was against – to acquire Jones. And the Ravens are expected to give Jackson a big extension, which means they’ll rely more on the draft and less on the free agency to build a team around him. The inclusion of Jones would require giving up some valuable draft picks, but his groundbreaking skills would have a huge impact. – Hensley
Mike Reiss’ offer: The Patriots would send a second round player and QB Jarrett Stidham in 2022.
Why make this offer? Designing and developing wide receivers has been a challenge for the Patriots under Bill Belichick, so the ability to trade against a # 1 caliber option is a unique opportunity. This is especially true in a year when the Patriots have tried to capitalize on market inefficiency because they have leeway while many teams do not.
Jones would fit into the Patriots’ WR depth map via Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourne and Jakobi Meyers, and combining that group with a revamped tight space led by free agent signings Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith would make the Patriots pass continue to change. The defense would have to think twice about occupying the middle of the field to take out the TEs and would also have to respect Jones as an outward threat. Do you want to make life easier for rookie QB Mac Jones should the Patriots turn to him? Surround him with a talent similar to that in Alabama.
An important part of the deal would be to restructure Jones’ contract, convert part of his $ 15.3 million base salary into a signing bonus, and distribute the cap hit between 2022 and 2023. Jones wins because he’s in Getting money up front, the Falcons can feel good about being right for a franchise star, and the Patriots can keep some flexibility on the wage cap in 2021. (New England currently has a little over $ 15 million in the room.)
As for Stidham, who once had a path to the Patriots number 1 before a dramatic turnaround, learning from behind Matt Ryan and seeing if he can reach his potential under Arthur Smith, who did wonders for Ryan in Tannehill, would be a fresh start Tennessee. – tear
Dan Orlovsky says trading Julio Jones would make the Patriots a top 4 team in the AFC.
Nick Wagoner’s offer: The 49ers would send a second-rounder in 2022 and a fourth-rounder in 2023.
Why make this offer? The 49ers have two exciting young wideouts in Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk, but that duo played 19 games last season as injuries and COVID-19 issues kept them on the sidelines. The addition of Jones – who knows Kyle Shanahan and his offensive well – would provide an opportunity to protect Samuel and Aiyuk while adding the great outside receiver that the Niners lack. The move also makes Jones a contender, which he put as a personal priority.
Jones would be an instant starter as an X-receiver and a required deep threat that would enable Aiyuk to line up across from him and Samuel to work from the slot. The Niners would boast of the kind of weapons anyone who plays quarterback needs to be successful.
Speaking of which, the easiest way for the Niners to get this deal up and running financially would be to move quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. San Francisco must sign linebacker Fred Warner to a lucrative contract extension, and that is their top priority. But it would be a lot easier to fit Jones’ $ 15.3 million salary for 2021 along with a Warner extension if they saved $ 25 million by doing after Jan.
That would be the easiest move, but it would be difficult because the Niners want to be sure Trey Lance is ready to go before handing the reins over to him. There are of course other ways to fit Jones and a Warner extension so that a Garoppolo trade or cut is not a prerequisite for a possible deal with Jones. – Car driver
Turron Davenport’s offer: The Titans would send a 2022 third round player and LB Rashaan Evans.
Why make this offer? Jones to an offense previously reported by Ryan Tannehill, A.J. Brown and Derrick Henry give the Titans the firepower to win shootouts against the elite AFC contenders. Jones will keep the opposing defenses from stacking the box frequently to stop Henry or double-cover Brown. Tannehill gets a receiver well equipped to make competitive catches all over the field.
Jones is able to play the X, the Z, or the slot, which expands the Titans’ options to create matchups as they move players through the formation. A trio of Jones, Brown, and Josh Reynolds looks pretty good on paper.
Tennessee will have to do some salary cap gymnastics to pay off the rest of the cash needed to absorb Jones’ contract this season – the Titans currently have about $ 3.5 million in the room – and the deal could turn in The future will affect contract negotiations for Brown and Reynolds. Brown’s rookie contract expires after the 2022 season, and Reynolds has a one-year contract for 2021. Jones has $ 11.5 million in cash annually in 2022 and 2023.
Evans’ move opens up around $ 2 million in wiggle room for the Titans. Having played under Falcons Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees in 2018 and 2019, Evans is more than capable of taking off in Atlanta. Evans becomes an immediate starter alongside Deion Jones as a linebacker for the Falcons. – Davenport
The verdict: The Falcons accept the 49ers’ offer
Why this deal? That was hard. While I was expecting a bit more market for Jones, especially the Chargers and Colts, there are only four deals on the table. One thing turned out to be very useful for Atlanta: The Niner’s offer of a 2022 second-round player and 2023 fourth-round player. A quick run through the other three offers:
Part of that is making room for caps so the Ravens who asked Atlanta to eat salary were a non-runner – unless the design compensation might be higher.
Jarrett Stidham doesn’t solve the future quarterback problem for the Falcons, so the deal with the Patriots has expired.
What the Titans have to offer is truly fascinating, and I almost thought of accepting it. Evans had his best NFL season under pees in 2019 (111 tackles, nine tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks) and he would be essentially another one-year deal with Tennessee not exercising his option.
The deal with San Francisco was the simplest, but also the most sensible. The Falcons acquire two picks that can help reshape the roster or offer Fontenot’s design capital to maneuver for the next two years. For me there was the best return on the offers published there. That wasn’t an easy decision to make, however, and I would only go into this deal if I felt like something can’t be done quickly with Jarrett to free up the necessary cap space. So I would accept the San Francisco offer. – Rothstein
What happens now for the 49ers: After signing their draft class, the 49ers will have roughly $ 11 million in salary cap, which is not enough to accept Jones’ contract, extend Warner, and leave room for potential needs during the season.
As mentioned earlier, the easiest way to free up the space needed would be to do something with Garoppolo’s contract. Ideally, they could swap it for a day two pick that could be used as part of a trade for Jones. That seems unlikely given the lack of teams that feel the need and motivation to accept his contract now. They could restructure Garoppolo’s deal, but that would only make the hit more painful when they eventually leave.
Mina Kimes believes Julio Jones could be a surprising trading option that could be on the way after June 1st.
Is there a way to land Jones with Garoppolo sticking to his current price? Yes, but it would take a lot of work. A contract extension that lowers Guardian Laken Tomlinson’s 2021 cap or a possible restructuring of deals for players like defensive end Arik Armstead and security guard Jimmie Ward would be possible mechanisms to make this work. Or maybe the 49ers are doing a simple restructuring with Jones, a deal that would increase its modest cost in 2022 and 2023 but would make it more palatable to fit him in 2021. All of that would allow the Niners to sign Warner for a major renewal, but it would likely mean reloading it and leaving its 2021 cap number largely untouched. – Car driver
What happens now for the hawks: Atlanta can sign its rookies, including Kyle Pitts in fourth place overall. It also means a shift in the offensive, but it came anyway, from Dirk Koetter to Arthur Smith. Calvin Ridley would be the # 1 clear option and an even better candidate for long-term renewal. Pitts as a rookie is more in demand, and Russell Gage would take on a more prominent offensive role. Jones’ departure would take everyone a while to get used to, especially Ryan, but the Falcons have plenty of options to be okay without Jones on the team. – Rothstein
Why 13 teams that might have made sense decided to pass
Here’s a quick look at why some teams who could potentially incorporate Jones into their financial plans have a wide receiver need, or both didn’t bid for Jones in this exercise. The teams are listed in alphabetical order.
Chicago Bears: The bears are simply short of money and cannot afford Jones. Chicago was so against the cap that it recently had to release Charles Leno as a starting link to free up $ 9 million. Wide receiver Allen Robinson II, who plays under the one-year franchise tag, doesn’t help. – Jeff Dickerson
Denver Broncos: The Broncos always seem to be in discussions about potential landing spots for seasoned players looking to be traded. But Courtland Sutton is well on its way back from a knee injury and resuming Task # 1, and the teams want to find younger recipients who they think are up for big roles – Jerry Jeudy, KJ Hamler and Tim Patrick – on the field more. Sutton, Jeudy, Hamler and Patrick will earn around $ 7 million less than Jones’ $ 15.3 million guarantee in 2021 alone. – Jeff Legwold
Detroit Lions: It would be a heavenly game for Lions fans. Detroit certainly needs location help, could afford it, and wants a star that attracts visitors. Plus, it would fit culturally. However, this is unlikely to happen as the Lions are in the middle of a full rebuilding and there is no point in wasting valuable assets and design capital in order to land an aging receiver in the direction they are headed under the new regime walk. – Eric J. Woodyard
Green Bay Packer: The Packers’ long history of giving up high draft picks to trade on behalf of recipients and spending large amounts of money on the pretender to get such aid makes one wonder why they wouldn’t prosecute Jones. Oh wait, sorry. Wrong team. But didn’t you hear: The Packers didn’t give Aaron Rodgers enough guns. Oh wait, sorry. They had the number 1 offense last year. Anyone who knows anything about the way the Packers work knows that they would never do anything like that. – Rob Demovsky
Houston Texans: This isn’t a move that would make sense for General Manager Nick Caserio. The Texans have so many holes on their 2021 roster – they’re not even sure who their quarterback will be – and they’re definitely no Julio Jones removed from being a playoff team. – Sarah Barshop
Indianapolis Colts: That would be the perfect scenario for the Colts … if Jones were three or four years younger. It would make Carson Wentz one of the top recipients in the NFL amid a reception group that was already T.Y. Hilton, Michael Pittman Jr. and Parris Campbell. But Jones is 32 years old and is coming from a 2020 season in which he only played nine games and has a contract for three more years. The Colts still have to hand over significant contract extensions to offensive linemen Quenton Nelson and Braden Smith and linebacker Darius Leonard, as financially smart as they have been in recent years. – Mike Wells
Jacksonville Jaguars: The Jaguars added Marvin Jones Jr. and Phillip Dorsett II as a freelance agency, and they designed Travis Etienne in the first round to be used in several places, including the receiver. DJ Chark Jr. and Laviska Shenault Jr. return, so the Jags are in good shape with Trevor Lawrence’s goals. Why use draft capital – even with all of your cap space – to add a 32-year-old receiver to a team that is realistically at least two years away from being a serious contender? – Mike DiRocco
Las Vegas Raider: Cap-Space, Cap-Space and Cap-Space. The Raiders have roughly $ 6 million in cap space and still have much of their draft class to sign. While Jones would be an upgrade to anyone in his reception room, Las Vegas is committed to taking Henry Ruggs III the next step. It’s as good as untouchable, and you think the hawks would want it in a trade. – Paul Gutierrez
Los Angeles chargers: There’s no point in interfering with the apple cart with another receiver. The Chargers are occupied with Keenan Allen, Mike Williams and Jalen Guyton as receivers, and running back Austin Ekeler catches a lot of balls. This device works well together. – Shelley Smith
Saints of New Orleans: You can’t completely rule out the Saints as they have a need at WR and, despite salary restrictions, never shy away from chasing star players. But they’ve hit the cap even more than usual this year, and it’s hard to imagine Atlanta selling Jones to its hottest rival. – Mike Triplet
New York Jets: The Jets have made three long-term investments at Wide Receiver in the past 13 months: Corey Davis (2021 Free Agent), Elijah Moore (2021 Second Round Pick) and Denzel Mims (2020 Second Round Pick). While Jones would instantly become their WR1, he would be seen as a short-term answer for a team thinking beyond 2021. – Rich Cimini
Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles are just up against the cap (about $ 4 million in the room) and have just picked DeVonta Smith in the first round. The smart game for them would allow Smith and her 2020 first round pick, Jalen Reagor, to develop an experienced receiver if needed and add it when they are ready to compete over the next season. – Tim McManus
Washington soccer team: This would not make sense to Washington for a number of reasons. Jones is 32 and wouldn’t make the team a Super Bowl contender right away. Washington would give up the space for draft capital and wage cap for a player who is still not what he’s trying to build while limiting future moves. Washington needs to save assets for a possible quarterback chase next off-season and wants the cap room to expand its young players – including current number 1 recipient Terry McLaurin. – John Keim