Atlanta Falcons star wide receiver Julio Jones is at the center of NFL trade rumors with training camp approaching. As the temperatures heat up, the speculation about Jones’s potential landing spot is also intensifying.
While Jones is arguably the best player in Falcons’ history, both sides are ready to part ways. The 32-year-old receiver wants to play for a contender. Meanwhile, Atlanta is desperate for cap space and its Super Bowl window slammed shut a few years ago.
Jones has been shopped for months. The Falcons started fielding calls for him early this spring and discussions ramped up during the 2021 NFL Draft. But the franchise needed to wait to make a deal. If a trade occurs after June 1, Atlanta creates $15 million in cap space.
Unsurprisingly, there are plenty of suitors for the future Hall of Fame inductee. While Jones is coming off an injury-plagued 2020 season, he was one of the best wide receivers in the NFL before that.
- Julio Jones stats (2014-’19): 623 receptions, 9,388 receiving yards, 37 touchdowns and 102 yards per game
While his contract is a bit of an issue for teams who are tight against the cap, Jones’ salary is reasonable for his position. He is owed just $38.32 million in the final three seasons of his deal and that’s without the Falcons absorbing some of the money in a trade.
Currently, the odds point to Jones being sent to the New England Patriots or Tennessee Titans. Both teams are in desperate need of a No. 1 receiver and should be aggressive with an opportunity to compete for a playoff spot in 2021. But according to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, the team most often discussed around NFL circles is the San Francisco 49ers.
Kyle Shanahan spent two seasons as Atlanta’s offensive coordinator, arguably playing the biggest role in the team reaching the Super Bowl. Jones set career-highs in receptions (136), receiving yards (1,871) and yards per game (116.9) during the 2015 season under Shanahan.
San Francisco boasts the defense to compete in the NFC and its secondary weapons, outside of All-Pro tight end George Kittle, provide nice complements to the offense. But the 49ers want to return to the Super Bowl and Jones could be the missing piece for the offense.
Evidently, Shanahan and Co. will be facing plenty of competition and this franchise doesn’t have first-round picks for the next two years. But Jones can make a huge impact in 2021 and his long-term influence on Trey Lance could shape this franchise for years.