Could the Falcons receive player compensation in a Julio Jones trade?

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By now, most people have seen or heard the reports that the Falcons are seeking to trade Julio Jones. The Athletic’s Jeff Schultz said the Falcons “would like” to trade the All-Pro receiver because of salary cap purposes as the team still needs cap space to sign the 2021 draft class, which should cost $7-8 million. Every team in the league would love to have a Julio Jones in their lineup, but finding a trade partner might prove more difficult than once thought.

OverTheCap has Jones’ contract, if unchanged, at $38,326,000 over the next three years for any team inquiring for his services. In an article exploring the compensation in return for Jones, I brought up the possibility of a few contingencies surrounding a deal to smooth things over. First, I talked about potential trade suitors demanding the Falcons absorb a portion of his contract, similar to what the Panthers did with Teddy Bridgewater for the Broncos — Schultz confirmed at least two teams have asked just that. Secondly, I proposed protected draft picks that are common in the NBA, most recently used in the Carson Wentz trade between Indianapolis and Philadelphia. A top-20 protected first-round pick that reverts to a second and third-round pick would be an example. 

The Falcons are trying to create cap space first and foremost, but they may have to jump through a few hoops to make the numbers work for the suitor. Schultz did a great job outlining a few criteria a potential trade partner would have to satisfy:

1) teams with enough cap space to absorb Jones’ $15.3 million base salary; 2) contending teams that believe he would put them over the top; 3) young teams looking to take the next step. Among the teams that could fall into these categories: Ravens, 49ers, Patriots, Colts, and Chargers.

Per Schultz, the Falcons will likely be seeking draft capital as compensation, though a first-round pick seems unlikely. The entire speculation around Jones stems from the fact that the Falcons are in cap hell, but with his contract being so large, it could behoove Atlanta to inquire about potential players in return to smooth things over for the other team’s salary cap. Getting draft capital and a rookie contract at a position of need could be the formula that drives a trade to fruition, so let’s explore a few options from teams that Schultz mentioned as potential partners.

Baltimore Ravens

JK Dobbins — Dobbins is entering the second year of his four-year $5.729 million contract. Though Mike Davis seems to be the lead back in Atlanta this year, having someone like Dobbins on a rookie contract is invaluable. 

Odafe Oweh — Baltimore’s first-round pick out of Penn State didn’t record a sack last season, but his athleticism drives his potential through the roof. Oweh would immediately come into Atlanta and compete for playing time.

Justin Madubuike — Madubuike was just a rotational defensive lineman last year, but everyone in the building expects him to take another massive step forward. He’s the future of the Ravens defensive line and costs just $1.1 million in 2020. The former third-round pick would form a formidable athletic duo with Grady Jarrett.

San Francisco 49ers

Javon Kinlaw — The former South Carolina Gamecock is entering his second year of a four-year $15.488 million contract. He impressed last year without Nick Bosa alongside him and only looked to be improving his pass-rushing arsenal. The Falcons need help on the defensive side of the ball. Kinlaw could capitalize on teams doubling Grady Jarrett, giving him one-on-ones with guards and centers.

New England Patriots

JC Jackson — Jackson is under a one-year, $1.384 million contract, but is someone the Falcons could sign to a long-term contract at a position of need… cornerback. With his nine total interceptions and fourteen pass deflections, Jackson put up numbers to place him in the upper echelon of the league’s corners — plus, he’s only 25.

Kyle Dugger — Dugger is a box safety and packs a punch when he arrives. He is an ideal fit with Richie Grant, who can roam the backend while Dugger patrols the box and line of scrimmage. He’s signed through 2024 and only costs $8.331 million over that time period.

Josh Uche — Another position of need on defense is EDGE. Uche flashed potential in limited snaps a year ago but has the positional flexibility that Dean Pees values in his linebackers.

Indianapolis Colts

Rock Ya-Sin — The former second-round pick out of Temple has struggled thus far in his career, but a change of scenery and scheme could do the young cornerback wonders.

Dayo Odeyingbo — Taken in the 2021 draft, Odeyingbo was someone I coveted and wanted the Falcons to grab. He’s position fluid and could turn into a potent defensive lineman under the multiple defense Dean Pees wants to run.

Los Angeles Chargers

Nasir Adderley — Former second-round pick Adderley has the positional flexibility Pees covets. He possesses the athleticism, ball skills, and range to play in the deeper parts of the field and the instincts and short-area quickness to play closer to the line of scrimmage.

Jerry Tillery — Tillery was the Chargers first-round pick in 2019 and has the perfect athletic traits to move up and down the line of scrimmage for Pees in a switching defense.

Uchenna Nwosu The team’s second-round pick in 2018 is a breakout candidate this year under Brandon Staley as he was the Chargers’ second-best pass rusher behind Joey Bosa a season ago.

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