Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill was at the center of the football world on Wednesday, May 19 following a slow news day tweet from Pro Football Focus asking if the three-time All-Pro is the best deep threat in NFL history.
A day later, the reigning AFC champions were again caught up in a social media firestorm when PFF floated a hypothetical trade proposal involving another All-Pro wideout: Julio Jones.
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The Proposed Price Tag on Jones
After weeks of speculation, Jeff Schultz of The Athletic confirmed on Thursday, May 20 that the Falcons “would like to trade Julio Jones” but also noted that his market — in part due to his $15.3 million base salary for 2021 — could be limited to as few as three to five teams.
While the Chiefs fit Schultz’s suggested trade criteria as a contending team in which Jones could put over the top for another Super Bowl, they were not listed among his initial group of ideal suitors. Instead, the Baltimore Ravens, San Francisco 49ers, New England Patriots, Indianapolis Colts, Los Angeles Chargers and Tennessee Titans were named specifically.
With Schultz also calling the possibility of the Falcons’ receiving first-round draft compensation in return for Jones “unlikely,” the stage was set for PFF’s proposal on behalf of the Chiefs.
In exchange for Jones and a 2022 sixth-round pick from Atlanta, PFF suggested Kansas City could secure the services of the 32-year-old star for a 2022 second-round, third-round and sixth-round pick.
🚨 HYPOTHETICAL TRADE 🚨
Imagine Julio Jones with the Chiefs 😳 pic.twitter.com/hGvJHWnf8z
— PFF (@PFF) May 20, 2021
Jones missed seven games last season due to a lingering hamstring injury dating all the way back to Week 2. According to Sports Injury Predictor, the 10-year NFL veteran has dealt with more than two dozen lower-body ailments since entering the league in 2011, 13 of which have been to his right ankle or foot. Still, outside of missing 11 games in 2013, Jones has managed through pain to play at least 13 games in eight of his 10 seasons in Atlanta.
Falcons Still in Serious Salary Cap Purgatory
In 2021, the former No. 6 overall pick will play out the first year of a three-year, $66 million extension signed back in September 2019. Given the $40.5 million dead cap hit attached to the deal for this year and the Falcons’ current salary cap situation, any trade for Jones wouldn’t occur before June 1. At that point, the total dead money hit would drop to $23.2 million ($7.7 million in 2021) but the Falcons would receive $15.3 million of immediate cap savings.
Considering Atlanta ($588,018) is one of only two clubs listed with less than $1 million in available cap space on the NFLPA public report — well short of the $6-8 million needed to sign its entire 2021 draft class — that financial relief is much needed. For comparison, the Chiefs currently hold just north of $10 million in spending power.
Although some financial gymnastics would still be needed for general manager Brett Veach and company to pull off a Jones deal, Kansas City cannot entirely be ruled out of the sweepstakes, even if they’re not the most ideal partner at present. Considering the Chiefs narrowly missed out on acquiring Pittsburgh Steelers star wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster in free agency in March, it’s not as if the team hasn’t considered upgrading opposite Hill now that Sammy Watkins has departed to Baltimore.
For now, Patrick Mahomes will work behind a revamped offensive line with Hill, Mecole Hardman, Byron Pringle, Demarcus Robinson, Cornell Powell, and of course, Travis Kelce, as his primary passing targets heading into training camp this summer.
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Chris Licata is an NFL contributor covering the Kansas City Chiefs from enemy territory in Denver, Colorado. Follow him on Twitter @Chris__Licata or join the Heavy on Chiefs Facebook community for the latest out of Chiefs Kingdom!