The New England Patriots could still use a difference-making wide receiver and few rate above the Atlanta Falcons’ Julio Jones. Per ESPN’s Michael Rothstein, he could be available, and the Patriots are listed as the top potential suitor.
Rothstein made a list of three teams most likely to inquire about acquiring Jones in a trade, and the still WR-needy Patriots topped his list. Rothstein wrote:
With around $16.5 million in cap space, the Patriots would have the room to make a deal. Bill Belichick has shown no concerns going after top players this offseason in free agency, and he has made trades to acquire players – particularly wide receivers. Remember, this is a franchise that traded for Randy Moss and Wes Welker in 2007 and Brandin Cooks in 2017. Plus, Belichick made a move for Corey Dillon in 2004. So the Patriots have made moves for playmakers in the past. While New England did sign Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne in free agency, Jones is another class of receiver and would give veteran Cam Newton and rookie Mac Jones a high-level target every down.
While the Patriots signed Kendrick Bourne and Nelson Agholor during the offseason, there is no question they could still stand to add another playmaker at wide receiver.
Even at 32 years old, Jones more than fits the bill, and he would instantly elevate the Patriots’ passing game and overall offense.
Patriots Can Afford Julio Jones’ Salary
You may be wondering if the Patriots can afford Jones’ salary. The answer to that question is yes.
Patriots Salary Cap expert Miguel Bezan explains how “fitting” the future Hall-of-Famer’s contract won’t be a problem at the time of the deal but might require additional moves so the team will have enough cash to operate during the season.
Fitting Julio Jones’ contract as it stands right now is not a problem.
Jones’ salary = $15.3M minus the $850k salary of the player he displaces from the Top 51 list equals a $14.45M decrease in the Patriots salary cap space number.
Issue = cap space for rest of the season https://t.co/pougETPaV3
— Cap Space=$15,544,482 (@patscap) April 27, 2021
The Patriots have had mixed results when trading for veteran wide receivers (Randy Moss, Mohamed Sanu, Brandin Cooks), but it’s hard to find a sensible argument against acquiring Jones. In just nine games in 2020, Jones still managed to pull down 51 passes for 771 yards and three TDs.
The yards and TD totals would have been enough for him to lead the Patriots in 2020, and the receptions would have been just eight short of tops on the team.
Jakobi Meyers had 59 catches in 14 games.
Staying Healthy Would Be Jones’ Biggest Challenge
Because Jones is on the wrong side of 30 and is coming off a season that saw him miss seven games due to an injury, durability is a valid concern.
However, the seven games Jones missed are the most he’s sat out since he missed 11 in 2013. Jones hasn’t played in fewer than 14 games between the two seasons. If he can stay healthy and a deal between the Patriots and Falcons can be swung, New England will have masterfully positioned itself as a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
Cam Newton will already head into the 2021 season with tons of pressure on his shoulders, but if Jones is added to the roster, the expectations for the team’s performance will be even higher.