Atlanta Falcons could trade Julio Jones during NFL Draft

It’s not something we see every day. A player the caliber of Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones being traded. What’s even more perplexing as it relates to a potential Jones trade is the fact that Atlanta can’t conceivably move him until after June 1 due to the finances.

According to Albert Breer of MMQB, this could lead to an NBA-type trade during the three-day 2021 NFL Draft starting on Thursday.

“My feeling right now is that they’re going to wind up moving Julio Jones,” Breer said on a recent podcast. “They’re going to try to move Julio Jones during draft week,” Breer said. “That leaves a hole for a queen on the chessboard-type of skill player.”

What would make this a rather interesting trade is the fact that it wouldn’t become “official” for over a month. Let us explain.

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Julio Jones trade complicated by finances

  • If the Falcons were to move Jones before June 2, they would take on a resounding dead cap hit of $23 million for the 2021 season. That’s a non-starter.
  • Moving Jones on June 2 or after would result in Atlanta being able to spread dead cap hit over the remainder of his contract, which runs through 2023. In turn, the team would create a mere $15.3 million cap hit in 2021 — saving a ton of cash over the short-term in the process.

The salary cap implications are something new Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot touched on recently when indicating that they have to listen to trade offers for any player on the roster.

“That’s one of those things when you’re doing things the right way in an organization, you have to listen if people call, on any player,” Fontenot told Fox 5 (h/t ESPN). “Especially, we are in a difficult cap situation, that’s just the circumstance and it’s not a surprise for us.”

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How a Julio Jones trade from the Atlanta Falcons might look

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Nov 8, 2020; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (11) catches a touchdown pass against the Denver Broncos during the second half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve seen it around the NBA over the past several years. Remember when Kobe Bryant played for the Charlotte Hornets after they drafted him in 1996? That obviously never happened. But he did appear on draft night wearing a Hornets hat after they selected him and before a trade to the Los Angeles Lakers. NBA rules prohibited a trade at that point, making for a pretty awkward situation.

This would be somewhat similar. The Falcons would find a trade partner for Julio Jones through the equivalent of a handshake. In turn, said team would make pick(s) for the Atlanta based on the agreed to compensation. Once June 2 comes calling, the trade would then be made official.

Why would Atlanta agree to this? It’s more realistic to wait until June and acquire future draft capital. This stance makes sense until we realize that the 2021 NFL Draft is seen as stacked at numerous positions of need for the Atlanta Falcons. Next year’s iteration is nothing more than a guess at this point.

Jones, 32, should be able to net Atlanta a pretty solid return in a trade. Despite dealing with injuries last season, we’re talking about one of the best wide receivers of his generation. The seven-time Pro Bowl performer is averaging 85 receptions for nearly 1,300 yards throughout his 10-year career with the Falcons. He’s also led the league in receiving yards twice.

As for potentially interested teams, the New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens would likely top the list. Meanwhile, Jones’ former offensive coordinator with the Atlanta Falcons, Kyle Shanahan of the San Francisco 49ers, would obviously show interest.