3 reasons why the Atlanta Falcons should trade Julio Jones

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones has been the subject of trade rumors on a near never-ending loop over the past few seasons. That did not change once he signed a three-year, $66 million extension back in September of 2019.

Interestingly enough, the Falcons’ decision to hire head coach Arthur Smith and general manager Terry Fontenot has put an end to rumors suggesting that both Jones and fellow future Hall of Famer Matt Ryan could be traded. Until now.

Falcons insider Jeff Schultz of The Athletic penned a piece recently indicating that it’s his belief that the Falcons should indeed move Julio Jones either ahead of the 2021 NFL Draft or in June when the salary cap hit wouldn’t be so harsh.

“There are several reasons why the Falcons should consider trading Jones. Calvin Ridley proved to be a No. 1 receiver last season, leading the team in receptions, yards, touchdowns and non-kicker scoring,” Schultz noted. “Jones has done an excellent job mentoring him, and Ridley’s work ethic, preparation and film study have been impressive. The Falcons can use the draft and future free-agency periods to build depth at receiver and tight end.”

Schultz makes some darn good points. Let’s expand on these in taking a look at three reasons why the Atlanta Falcons should trade Julio Jones.

Read More: 5 most likely Julio Jones trade scenarios

Moving Julio Jones would net the Atlanta Falcons a nice draft haul

NFL trades: Atlanta Falcons Julio Jones to the Las Vegas Raiders
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

Despite missing seven games to injury a season ago, Jones still remains a top-end receiver when on the field. From 2014-19, the seven-time Pro Bowler averaged a whopping 104 receptions for 1,564 yards. He didn’t magically lose this talent at the age of 32 and after coming off a hamstring injury.

There’s every reason to believe a receiver-needy team would give up a second-round pick and change in order to bring Jones into the mix. Following the retirement of Julian Edelman, it’s clear that the New England Patriots have a need at wide receiver. Why not offer up former first-round bust N’Keal Harry and their second-round pick (46th overall). Perhaps, Jones’ former offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan might want to bring him to the San Francisco 49ers. The 43rd pick could be beneficial to Atlanta moving forward.

Read More: Atlanta Falcons mock draft: 7-round 2021 NFL Draft projections with trades

A Julio Jones trade would create financial flexibility long term

Sure the Falcons would actually be on the hook to lose money against the NFL salary cap in 2021 if they were to trade Jones ahead of the coming draft. This is not necessarily an issue for a rebuilding team that doesn’t have huge expectations heading into September.

Rather, it would be all about clearing Jones’ $19.26 million cap hit for the 2022 season. The idea would be to have more financial flexibility once the Falcons are in a position to contend again. If they are set on selecting an eventual heir-apparent to Matt Ryan fourth overall in the 2021 NFL Draft later this month, it makes even more sense.

Read More: NFL trade rumors: Latest updates and information for 2021 offseason

The Atlanta Falcons already have a No. 1 receiver

Atlanta Falcons replace Julio Jones with Calvin Ridley
Dec 8, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley (18) scores a touchdown in the second quarter against the Carolina Panthers at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

By virtue of Jones’ injury issues a season ago, former first-round pick Calvin Ridley stepped up as a third-year player. He led the team in receptions (90), receiving yards (1,374) and touchdowns (nine). Assuming Atlanta picks up the fifth-year option on Ridley’s rookie deal, he’ll be under contract through the 2022 season at a pretty reasonable cost.

Assuming Ryan has one more season in Atlanta before an unnamed quarterback takes over in 2022, Ridley could help said youngster bring these Falcons to a new era. Coming off a four-win season and with a new power duo in charge, the time is now to move on from the old guard. Trading Julio Jones and giving the keys to the proverbial kingdom to Ridley would make sense.