Julio Jones may or may not be returning to the gridiron as an Atlanta Falcon next season. There has been no confirmation that the Falcons are trading Jones, but there have been multiple reports that the Falcons are taking calls.
A handful of suitors will likely be on the table for the Falcons as Jones, a seven-time Pro Bowler, is hard to look past if he’s up for sale. In fact, a fellow five-time Pro Bowler himself, DeAndre Hopkins, made it clear via Twitter that he is willing to reconstruct his contract to make room for Jones at the Arizona Cardinals.
While the Cardinals may not be in the market for another wideout, Hopkins tweeted on Friday, May 21, “Somebody at the gym asked me would I restructure my contract for Julio?”
With the tweet, he posted a GIF of a man giving two thumbs up––indicating he would be willing to move some money.
Somebody at the gym asked me would I restructure my contract for Julio ? pic.twitter.com/71mpbcoWhE
— Deandre Hopkins (@DeAndreHopkins) May 21, 2021
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Franchises That Can Afford to Trade for the Falcons’ Star
While the Falcons will likely recieve several calls from teams accross the league inquiring about their start wideout, there are only a few teams that can actually afford the move.
Per The Athletic’s Jeff Schultz, only six teams can take the cap $15 million cap hit––the Baltimore Ravens, San Francisco 49ers, New England Patriots, Indianapolis Colts, Los Angeles Chargers and possible the Tennssee Titans.
“The Falcons would like to trade Julio Jones,” Schultz wrote. “That doesn’t mean it’s 100 percent that it’s going to happen. That doesn’t mean some members of the organization don’t believe the future Hall of Famer can still play, when healthy. But Jones’ availability on the trade market has been clear almost from the time new general manager Terry Fontenot and coach Arthur Smith landed in Atlanta and realized the extent of the team’s salary-cap problems. Anybody who wants to deny that likely is doing so out of mere fandom.”
Some teams might even not want to take the chance on a pricey veteran wideout who wasn’t abel to play all 16 games last season.
There’s a 50-50 Shot the Falcons Trade Jones
According to Peter King of NBC Sports, there is a “better than 50-50” chance that the Falcons end up trading Jones before week 1 of the 2021 season.
“The reason is, obviously the Falcons are basically in cap jail right now, and they could clear an awful lot of space by trading Julio Jones June 2 or after,” King said on a recent episode of The Peter King Podcast. “They could separate his cap hit into two years, instead of taking it all now. So, that’s why I still think there’s a good chance he’s gonna get traded.”
If Jones is traded post-June 1st Atlanta will save $15 million in salary-cap space and if now, the team takes a $23 million cap hit. However, trading Jones isn’t going to fix the Falcons cap hell all together.
Jones finished the 2020 season with 51 catches for 771 yards and three touchdowns in 9 games. His hamstring injury played a huge role in his decrease in production and you could tell his was struggling to get up from every hit he took.
If the Falcons decided to make a blockbuster move, they will still be in good hands with rising star Calvin Ridley and new weapon addition Kyle Pitts.