When NFL trade rumors started swirling that Atlanta Falcons star Julio Jones was available, teams around the league reached out to try and land the All-Pro receiver. But it seems the Falcons have created a situation that makes a blockbuster trade far easier said than done.
Atlanta started shopping its icon weeks before the 2021 NFL Draft, with new general manager Terry Fontenot confirming they were taking calls. At first, the franchise’s efforts to move the All-Pro receiver seemed entirely determined by the salary cap.
The Falcons currently have less than $1 million in cap space, not enough to sign their rookie class. Trading Jones would solve that problem, creating $15 million in space for the club to add its rookies and to fill out the roster. But that is no longer the only driving force behind trade talks.
Jones no longer wants to play for the Falcons, recognizing the team’s contention window is closing. Aware of the cap situation, the 32-year-old wants to be moved to a contender with a great quarterback.
Many expected a deal to be done this past week. After June 1 passed, that meant the Falcons could trade Jones and would get the maximum cap relief ($15 million). But it seems negotiations have hit a snag, which could lead to this story hanging around long into the summer.
Latest on Julio Jones trade
ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler appeared on Sunday’s SportsCenter with an update on where things stand with Jones. Atlanta is still talking to multiple teams, but rival clubs are all having the same issue in negotiations.
“Teams are still having a problem with some of the money involved, the draft pick capital they have to give up, I think the Rams are in that boat. Haven’t been overly involved in recent days, but the Rams are always lurking.”NFL insider Jeremy Fowler with latest on Julio Jones
It doesn’t come as a surprise, based on reports in recent weeks. Many around the NFL believe Atlanta’s asking price is outlandish, even causing some general managers to move on from discussions. Given the impact Jones can have on an offense, walking away from an opportunity to land him speaks volumes.
- Julio Jones stats (2014-’19): 623 receptions, 9,388 receiving yards, 37 touchdowns and 102 yards per game
Everyone recognizes the Falcons are in a tight spot. While some leverage is created with multiple teams bidding for Jones, those same clubs are also aware of Atlanta’s situation.
The Falcons aren’t just asking for a first-round pick. They want the team acquiring Jones to absorb his entire contract. There’s also a belief around the league that the future Hall of Famer will want a contract extension whenever he lands in his new home.
There’s a strong case to be made that Jones is worthy of a raise, since he’s owed just $38.32 million over the next three seasons. But there likely isn’t a decision-maker out there who is willing to move a first-round pick for an aging receiver with a recent history of soft-tissue injuries.
Jones won’t be playing for the Falcons in 2021, but a trade doesn’t appear to be imminent. Wherever he lands, it will have a significant impact on how the 2021 NFL season unfolds.