The Atlanta Falcons will hold out as long as they can for a potential Julio Jones trade, but for the best interests of all parties involved, the sooner the superstar wide receiver can find a new team, the quicker everyone can move on.
With the June 1 NFL deadline now lapsed, Atlanta’s blockbuster deal for Jones should go down any day now. A number of teams have been linked to the All-Pro wideout, but who’s in the best position to make the Falcons an offer they can’t refuse?
Let’s take a look at the five best offers the most buzzed-about Jones suitors could make to new Atlanta general manager Terry Fontenot.
5. San Francisco 49ers’ best Julio Jones trade offer
- 49ers send 2022 second-round pick, RB Raheem Mostert, WR Jalen Hurd to Falcons for WR Julio Jones
Giving up two first-round picks to move up for Trey Lance in the 2021 NFL Draft really puts the 49ers behind the 8-ball here in the Julio Jones trade sweepstakes.
However, there’s so much appeal to bringing him aboard if the Falcons are willing to accept slightly less draft compensation and a couple of players in the exchange.
Since San Francisco has so much backfield depth, it can afford to part with its top incumbent in Mostert, who’d have a chance to start over Mike Davis in Atlanta, or at least wouldn’t be in such a predominant committee situation. Mostert is also a mere $3.6 million cap hit this year.
Hurd is an interesting case. He landed on injured reserve in each of the past two seasons, so the 49ers haven’t seen much of him since picking him in the third round of the 2019 draft. However, Hurd is 6-foot-5 and has tons of upside to explore, considering he converted to receiver as a transfer at Baylor in 2018 after playing running back for three years for the Tennessee Volunteers.
San Francisco won’t really be hurting by giving up Mostert and Hurd. It’ll hurt a little to punt on the first two rounds of the 2022 draft, but Jones would reunite with Kyle Shanahan and join a receiving corps with Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk. That trio, along with George Kittle, would give the Niners a truly elite pass-catching group.
4. Seattle Seahawks’ best Julio Jones trade offer
- Seahawks send 2022 second-round pick, S Quandre Diggs to Falcons for WR Julio Jones
If it’s a first-round pick Atlanta wants in next year’s draft, well, the Seahawks can’t offer that. What they can do is give up a second-rounder and a proven defensive player, which is where the Falcons most desperately need help.
Diggs is only a $6.1 million cap hit, and could team with fellow newcomers Duron Harmon and Richie Grant to transform Atlanta’s safety group.
Seattle has never been shy of sacrificing future assets for proven players. Although the team might be wise to prioritize other positions, namely on defense, the prospect of adding Jones to an offense that already has DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett on the outside is downright tantalizing.
Keeping Russell Wilson happy should be the Seahawks’ chief concern. However that objective is achieved doesn’t matter. Trading for Jones is a great way to ensure Wilson stays in the Emerald City for the foreseeable future.
3. Baltimore Ravens’ best Julio Jones trade offer
- Ravens send 2022 first-round pick, 2022 fourth-round pick, RB Gus Edwards to Falcons for WR Julio Jones
That first-round pick in the upcoming draft, not to mention another early Day 3 asset and a viable tailback in Edwards to compete with Davis, must appeal to the Falcons if Baltimore comes calling with this offer.
After all, thanks to the Orlando Brown Jr. trade, the Ravens just had two first-round picks in the 2021 draft. They can afford to burn one to give their MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson an actual No. 1 receiver for the first time in his young career.
Jackson’s incredible skill set has translated to an excellent rushing attack, but Baltimore’s passing concepts have been lackluster, in part due to a lack of capable players on the outside. Jones would address that problem, and also take heat off rookie Rashod Bateman to be the instant go-to guy. It’d just take some restructuring of contracts to make the numbers work on the Ravens’ end.
To circle back to Atlanta’s side of this trade, Edwards is only a $3.38 million cap hit for 2021 and is essentially on a one-year prove-it deal if he goes to the Falcons. That’s still a lot of savings once Jones’ $15.3 million in savings is off the books.
2. Tennessee Titans’ best Julio Jones trade offer
- Titans send 2022 first-round pick, LB Rashaan Evans to Falcons for WR Julio Jones
Rashaan Evans would only cost Atlanta a little over $2 million once he’d arrive in a Jones trade. He’s started all 16 games in each of the past two seasons and has 207 combined tackles in that span. Pairing him with Deion Jones would give the Falcons a dynamic linebacker duo.
It’s no secret the Titans are in on the Jones market. They have the first-round pick Atlanta is believed to be looking for in an ideal scenario, and can offer a plus defender on the cheap as part of the deal. Tennessee lost Corey Davis in free agency, so getting Jones makes lots of sense.
Another reason this is a great fit: new Falcons coach Arthur Smith was just the Titans’ offensive coordinator, so he has plenty of ties to that organization. There’s probably a willingness from both sides to get a deal done.
Among the teams in the running for Jones, Tennessee is among the neediest at the receiver spot and may even exceed this offer with another higher draft pick to get him. Other than A.J. Brown, the Titans don’t exactly have a strong group of receivers. Jones would change that instantly.
1. New England Patriots’ best Julio Jones trade offer
- Patriots send 2022 first-round pick, WR N’Keal Harry, CB Stephon Gilmore to Falcons for WR Julio Jones
It’s been reported that the Patriots are one of Jones’ two preferred destinations, along with the Titans. Jones is also rumored to want to play with New England QB Cam Newton.
As fate would have things, it just so happens that the Pats can make the best offer in a Jones trade package among the teams most interested in him.
New England coach Bill Belichick has been extremely aggressive in upgrading the team’s talent this offseason through free agency. He can send in a former first-round pick in Harry, who the Falcons could have on the cheap as a developmental player with upside. Gilmore is a one-year rental, but a veteran Atlanta could desperately use in the secondary.
Then, of course, the Pats also have the first-round pick in next year’s draft to kick in. In this scenario, even with Gilmore’s cap hit, the Falcons are getting a big defensive upgrade, still getting cap relief and will have even more space heading into 2022 when Gilmore hits free agency.