NFL experts believe the Atlanta Falcons will be making future Hall-of-Fame receiver Julio Jones available for trade.
While there is sure to be a market for the still-productive 32-year-old star, the New England Patriots have been mentioned as a potential suitor.
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NBC Sports’ Peter King says:
Surprises? Keep an eye on Atlanta. I can’t predict any bombshells. But a few things would not surprise me. Most notably, the Falcons putting the framework of a trade together for star wideout Julio Jones, and making the trade effective June 2. That way, Atlanta could split Jones’ cap charge between 2021 and 2022 instead of getting bashed with it all this year. So if such a trade happens, I expect it could involve a future pick or picks, nothing this year. (A future second-round pick as compensation seems fair to me.) Because such a trade wouldn’t be official till June, no picks in this draft could be involved. As for the interested team or teams, I would guess Las Vegas; Jon Gruden couldn’t resist Antonio Brown, and I doubt he could resist Julio Jones. New England too, and a couple of teams with clear receiver needs—Tennessee and Baltimore. Now, the Falcons don’t really want to trade Julio Jones. He’s a franchise legend. But he’s 32, entering his 11th season, coming off a banged-up year with seven games missed due to injury, and the Falcons are in cap jail. If they could off-load his money and cushion it by splitting it between this year ($7.75 million) and next ($15.5 million), Atlanta’s cap charge on Jones this year goes down by a tad more than $15 million.
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Jones would be the unquestioned No. 1 receiver should the Patriots make a deal for him, and he’d be the best passing option the team has had since they traded for Randy Moss from the Oakland Raiders in April 2007.
Others Believe Julio Jones is on the Market as Well
Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer seconded the notion of Jones being available for a trade. He wrote:
It wouldn’t shock me if Julio Jones gets traded at some point this offseason.I’m told the Falcons are listening to offers on the five-time All-Pro as part of a larger effort to clean up the salary cap—as it stands right now, the Falcons wouldn’t even be able to sign their draft class. Basically, the new brass told other teams they’d listen to offers on any of the more expensive players on the roster. They got some interest in linebacker Deion Jones, then decided to restructure his contract and keep him. They’ve restructured Matt Ryan and left tackle Jake Matthews as well. Calls have come in on Jones too, but his deal hasn’t been reworked yet. What would it take to get Jones out of Atlanta? My guess is a first-round pick, or some equivalent. He’s 32, but he’s still shown he can play when healthy, and the three years left on his deal are reasonable ($15.3 million this year, $11.513 million in 2022 and $11.513 million in 2023).
Breer didn’t specifically mention the Patriots, but New England may have the most publicized need for a top receiver in the NFL. The team signed Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne this offseason to improve the group, but there is still room for improvement.
Julian Edelman’s retirement and the lack of production from N’Keal Harry through his first two season makes the wide receiver position still one that New England has to address leading up to Week 1.
How Would Acquiring Julio Jones Affect the Patriots’ Draft Plans?
Most expect the Patriots to draft at least one wide receiver from April 29-May 1 during the 2021 NFL Draft. The talk has been directed to the slot position where Edelman starred for more than a decade.
Jones doesn’t operate from the slot often, so acquiring him wouldn’t need to change the Patriots’ direction necessarily. However, adding Jones would probably lead to a player like Bourne or Jakobi Meyers taking over Edelman’s role.
Even with a receiving corps that potentially included Jones, Bourne, Agholor, Meyers, Harry, and Gunner Olszewski, New England could still stand to gain a speedy and dynamic playmaker who can create some havoc for defenses.