Seven-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Julio Jones of the Atlanta Falcons just recently took to the media to indicate that he will not be back with the team for an 11th season.
This was the culmination of weeks of rumors suggesting that the future first ballot Hall of Famer could in fact be traded during the offseason.
Since then, rumors have persisted that Jones would prefer to be moved to either the Tennessee Titans or New England Patriots. Meanwhile the Falcons’ NFC rivals in that of the San Francisco 49ers are said to be interested.
According to this note from ESPN’s Dianna Russini, Atlanta has discussed several trade offers presented from other teams. That reportedly includes an offer for a first-round pick. Russini also noted that a trade to the aforementioned Titans seems to be a longshot. That could change the dynamics to an extent.
What is Julio Jones’ value in a trade?
The note that an unnamed team offered Atlanta a first-round pick is pretty astonishing. He’s about to enter his Age-33 season, missed seven games to a hamstring injury last season and will count $15 million against the cap for an acquiring team in 2021.
Sure Jones has a track record of success. In fact, he’s been among the best receivers in modern NFL history since entering the league as a first-round pick back in 2011. That span has seen Jones average 85 receptions for nearly 1,300 yards in 10 seasons.
Even then, any team picking Jones up would be betting that injuries have not caught up with him and he can somehow buck the trend that suggests his age will lead to natural regression on the football field.
As for a team reportedly offering up a first-round pick for Julio Jones, that would seem to suggest the 49ers are no longer a realistic option. They moved two future first-round selections (2022 and 2023) in a trade up with the Miami Dolphins for the third pick in the 2021 NFL Draft (Trey Lance).
There’s no reason to believe general manager John Lynch and Co. would be willing to part with a 2024 first rounder for Jones. There’s also no reason to believe Atlanta would take a draft pick that far down the road in a trade for Jones.
I also have a hard time believing that the Patriots would offer up a top-32 selection for the veteran receiver. They are squarely stuck between bottom-tier playoff contention and a complete rebuild after selecting Mac Jones No. 15 overall in April. While Bill Belichick is the second-oldest coach in the NFL, he’s not in position to risk New England’s long-term viability for a short-term fix that likely wouldn’t help the team ascend to championship contention.
In reality, this report could be an example of the Falcons leaking information to the media in order up the ante in trade talks. Specifically, throwing out an unrealistic trade offer in hopes that other teams offer more.
Right now, the going rate in a Julio Jones trade seems to be a second-round pick and change. It’s unrealistic to believe that the Falcons will land a first-rounder.
In any event, expect something to be finalized within the next week or so.