When general manager Terry Fontenot the job this spring, he had an overwhelming task ahead of him. Due to years of bad cap management by the former regime, the Falcons found themselves way over the cap and had very few options to solve their problem.
Restructuring Matt Ryan‘s contract and releasing several key contributors helped, but Atlanta has less than $1 million in cap space and still needs to sign a majority of its 2021 rookie class. As a result, with no other realistic solution, the Falcons are prepared to move on from a future Hall of Famer.
According to The Athletic’s Jeff Schultz, the Falcons want to trade Jones. The front office has discussed the possibility for months and the organization is now fully on board and would like to deal him to solve the salary-cap woes.
Reaching that consensus isn’t easy, but the Falcons don’t have much choice. They need another $6-plus million cleared off the books to sign their rookies. That money is also needed for the regular season, filling out the roster when injuries strike and maintaining a competitive practice squad.
By waiting until after June 1 to move him, Atlanta creates more than $15 million in cap relief. It would solve the club’s issues and could even open the door to discussing contract extensions with Grady Jarrett and Calvin Ridley.
The Falcons likely won’t receive a first-round pick for a player who twice led the NFL in receiving yards and is a five-time All-Pro selection. Jones’s contract is large enough that only a few teams can afford to acquire him, limiting the list of bidders.
Ultimately, the Falcons will likely need to settle for a second-round pick. At that cost, the Indianapolis Colts, San Francisco 49ers, Baltimore Ravens and Las Vegas Raiders will likely be involved. Once a deal goes down, expect rookie Kyle Pitts to step in as the No. 2 target in Arthur Smith’s offense.