NFL star says he’s ‘out of’ Atlanta in stunning TV moment
Hints of Julio Jones-Patriots trade possibility starting to be revealed
Julio Jones trade rumors heat up amid Falcons cap crunch
Superstar receiver seems increasingly likely to be traded
Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones shocked the NFL world on Monday morning when he admitted to Shannon Sharpe on “Undisputed” that he is “out” of Atlanta.
The seven-time Pro Bowler has been the subject of trade rumors since around the 2021 NFL Draft, but the admission turned an exit from a possibility to a likelihood. Adam Schefter reported that the Falcons are seeking a first-round pick in return, though those in league circles don’t expect it to happen.
Ian Rapoport reported that Jones officially requested a trade over a month ago. A team would need to take on his salary, as he has a $23 million cap hit (though it can be split over two seasons if the trade is executed after June 1).
Here are some possible trade destinations for the superstar receiver (the Cowboys are not one of them, per his “Undisputed” appearance):
New England Patriots
The Patriots are typically a team mentioned in these trade rumors, as great players have tended to fall into Bill Belichick’s lap, but it would make a fair amount of sense. Despite a huge free-agent spending spree, the Patriots still have about $15 million in cap space, per Over The Cap. It’d be enough to fit Jones’ salary if the trade is executed after June 1.
The Patriots have internally considered making a move for Jones, and they are currently the betting favorite for his next team, according to BetOnline.ag. Feels like there is a decent possibility of a Jones-to-Jones (Mac-to-Julio) connection in New England.
San Francisco 49ers
Another team that drafted a quarterback in 2021 could look to add another piece to aid in his development. The 49ers plan to sit Trey Lance behind Jimmy Garoppolo, but the incumbent has missed 23 games in the past three seasons since joining San Francisco. If Trey Lance does play early, who is a better security blanket than Jones. The receiver and 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan went to the Super Bowl together when Shanahan was the offensive coordinator in Atlanta.
The 49ers are a contender regardless of who plays quarterback, and they have $17 million of cap space to spare. They did empty the cabinet of draft picks when they traded up for Trey Lance, but an offense with George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk and Jones – with Shanahan calling plays – could be unstoppable.
The Titans had two of the more underrated losses of the offseason in Corey Davis and Jonnu Smith, leaving their offensive skill position group as A.J. Brown, Derrick Henry, and … not much else. Jones would help take attention away from those two, and surely would give Ryan Tannehill’s offense a huge boost.
The problem with Tennessee is cap space, as they currently only have about $3.5 million available. They’d have to cut a veteran or two to make space – offensive linemen Ben Jones and Roger Saffold would save them $6 and $7 million against the cap, respectively. It’d be a risk, but there is upside.
The Colts made the splash move to land Carson Wentz in a trade with the Eagles, but they don’t have a ton of weapons for him to work with. Michael Pittman Jr. flashed as a rookie (503 yards) but has a long way to go to be a No. 1. Parris Campbell has been unable to stay on the field. T.Y. Hilton is back, but who knows if he has anything left in the tank.
Enter Jones, who would give Wentz an instant No. 1 and will have plenty of time to get open behind a strong offensive line. There are questions as to whether or not Wentz can return to form after a brutal 2020, but a receiver of Jones’ caliber will surely make him look better.
The Ravens haven’t had a 1,000-yard receiver since 2016, when Mike Wallace was in Baltimore. They appeared to exhaust all options in the offseason, reportedly offering JuJu Smith-Schuster and Hilton contracts, but both returned to their respective teams.
They drafted Minnesota product Rashod Bateman in the first round and signed Sammy Watkins, but they still could use more pass-catching help. This offense has to evolve in the passing game if they want to win a Super Bowl with Lamar Jackson, and having a guy like Jones would certainly help.
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