Peter King, Albert Breer, and Steve Wyche have all reported that the Falcons are fielding calls regarding a Julio Jones trade. General manager Terry Fontenot confirmed those reports to Justin Felder, but he pointed towards an organization doing the right thing by listening to any inquiries given Atlanta’s current financial situation. There are three years left on Jones’ current deal, which would carry a dead cap figure of $7,750,000 every year until his contract ends with a post-June 1st designation for the Falcons — saving the franchise $15,300,000 against the cap this year and $11,513,000 for the subsequent two years. Brokering a deal before the draft and still fulfilling the June 1st designation is possible as long as both sides agree to it.
If an organization were to acquire Jones on his current contract, they’d be on the hook for $15,300,000 this year and $11,513,000 in the following two years — three years, $38,326,000 in total. For a wide receiver who averages over 95 yards a game over the course of his career, that would be considered a bargain for contending teams. This isn’t me advocating for a trade or assuming there will be a trade; in fact, I believe wholeheartedly that Julio Jones will be in a Falcons uniform in 2021. Still, I wanted to explore the possibility.
The AFC North is shaping up to be one of the toughest divisions in football, and Eric DeCosta has $15 million in cap space to improve the Ravens roster. Just about every analyst or expert has Baltimore drafting a wideout with one of their first-round picks, 27th or 31st — the latter received from Kansas City in the Orlando Brown Jr. trade. DeCosta has pushed the narrative that he likes the wide receiver group they have. Still, there’s no denying the effort made in free agency to improve the weapons around Lamar Jackson being unsuccessful. As far as a scheme fit, Jones going to a run-centric offense like Greg Roman’s doesn’t make much sense. However, the Ravens have plenty of draft capital and cap space to make a trade happen, as well as being the best place in this article for Jones to add a championship to his already-Hall of Fame résumé.
Chris Ballard has been one of the best drafting general managers in the league, relying on developing in-house talent rather than acquiring it through free agency or via trades. Although, he did make two uncharacteristic blockbuster trades, acquiring Carson Wentz and DeForest Buckner, so a Julio Jones trade is possible. Of the 2020 playoff teams, no franchise is in a more favorable position to take on Jones’ salary than the Colts — they have $22.4 million in cap space, most of the league’s 14 playoff teams from last season. Putting Jones opposite T.Y. Hilton and Michael Pittman Jr. would give Wentz a premier pass catcher, a deep threat, and a dangerous third option. Given how productive Frank Reich‘s run game is, this transaction would shorten the gap between other elite offenses in the NFL — Chiefs, Packers, Bills, etc.
New York Jets
Out of all these destinations, the Jets are the furthest away from a championship, but New York has the cap space to absorb Jones’ deal as well as the draft capital to offer a convincing trade. One formula to win now is to surround a quarterback on a rookie deal with established offensive weapons and a strong offensive line. With Zach Wilson the presumptive pick, Mike LaFleur would be overjoyed to have Julio Jones back in the same offense from 2016. The Jets might be more than just one player away from competing, but this would launch New York’s offense into at least threatening defenses.