A Julio Jones trade is feeling more inevitable for the Atlanta Falcons. In an offseason that saw the front office take drastic steps to get under the NFL salary cap, new general manager Terry Fontenot may now be forced to make the one move he has been trying desperately to avoid.
Fontenot, hired this spring, took over the job with a major task at hand. The Falcons had one of the worst salary-cap situations in the NFL, lacking the space to even fill out the roster this offseason. Through a series of releases and restructures, which will hurt the team in the future, Atlanta got under the cap before the new league year.
Unfortunately, it’s still not enough. The Falcons have less than $1 million in cap space, not nearly enough to sign their 2021 rookie class. So, with few other reasonable avenues to save money, Fontenot is hearing what other teams are willing to offer for Jones.
Appearing on ESPN’s Get Up, NFL insider Dan Graziano provided an update on where things stand in Atlanta. Trading Jones was on the table before Atlanta drafted Kyle Pitts with the No. 4 pick. With a new electrifying weapon added to the offense, it’s very likely the Falcons deal their All-Pro receiver.
“The Falcons probably end up trading Julio Jones. They have to wait until after June 1 to do it for cap reasons, but his contract number is bigger than they want it to be right now. They feel like they may have drafted his replacement in Kyle Pitts.”ESPN’s Dan Graziano on Atlanta Falcons plans with Julio Jones
Fontenot must wait until June 1 passes before a deal can be made. If Jones is traded after that date, the Falcons create more than $15 million in cap space. It will mean spreading out the financial burden from moving his contract over several years, but that’s a consequence the organization is now very familiar with.
Jones’ contract might limit the number of suitors, largely because of the reduced NFL salary cap. But teams like the San Francisco 49ers, New England Patriots, Baltimore Ravens and Tennessee Titans need a No. 1 receiver and could afford to take on the money.
- Julio Jones stats (2015-’19): 519 receptions, 7,795 receiving yards, 15.0 yards per catch and 31 touchdowns in 77 games
The 32-year-old missed significant time in 2020 due to a hamstring strain and soft-tissue injuries have been an issue in recent years. But Jones is still a seven-time Pro Bowl selection and a future Hall of Famer. When he’s on the field, there are few better weapons in the NFL.
Jones is beloved in Atlanta, but fans have likely seen his last snaps in the team’s colors. Once the calendar hits June 2, there will be a few teams willing to offer a second-round pick to the Falcons.