It may only be a matter of time before the NFL sees a blockbuster move this summer with a potential Julio Jones trade looming. As the Atlanta Falcons listen to offers for their future Hall of Famer, many around the NFL are monitoring one team closely.
Due to bloated contracts given out by the previous regime and the financial ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Falcons have one of the worst salary-cap situations in the NFL. With less than $500,000 in cap space, per Over the Cap, Atlanta doesn’t even have the room to sign its 2021 rookie draft class.
As a result, the franchise is forced to make a difficult situation with its back against the wall. Jones, who is beloved in Atlanta, has been one of the best wide receivers in the NFL for the past decade. But, with no other realistic option, trading him after June 1 to create $15 million in cap room feels inevitable.
The Falcons have publicly said they are listening to offers, with reports that a 2022 second-round pick is necessary for a blockbuster deal to happen. While multiple teams will be involved, many are keeping an eye on one specific club.
“I’ve talked to a few teams that are at least wondering if the New England Patriots get involved here. They’ve had an aggressive offseason in free agency with all those signings they’ve made, they have $16.2 million in cap space to take on a bloated salary like Julio’s and Jones and quarterback Cam Newton go way back from those Auburn-Alabama rivalry Iron Bowl days, those days in the NFC South together.”NFL reporter Jeremy Fowler with latest update on potential Julio Jones trade landing spot, via SportsCenter
A trade to New England makes perfect sense. The Falcons need to find a team who can afford to absorb Jones’s contract and there are only a few who can do that. New England is joined by the San Francisco 49ers ($17.6 million), Los Angeles Chargers ($20.45 million) and Indianapolis Colts ($20.46 million) as contenders who stand out as potential landing spots.
If the Falcons prefer for Jones to be out of the NFC, Los Angeles and New England become even more likely destinations. But the Chargers already have a No. 1 receiver in Keenan Allen and Jones doesn’t have a relationship with Justin Herbert.
- Julio Jones stats (2014-’19): 623 receptions, 9,388 receiving yards, 37 touchdowns and 102 yards per game
Atlanta might also want to accommodate Jones if possible, given everything he has meant to this franchise. Close ties to Newton might make the Patriots his preferred destination. Plus, with the Patriots lacking a No. 1 wide receiver, there would be an excellent opportunity to become the go-to target.
Belichick does have a history of trading with the Falcons. During the 2019 season, he traded a 2020 second-round pick for wide receiver Mohamed Sanu. While there’s a new front office running things in Atlanta, the precedent demonstrates Belichick can be aggressive in a trade.
Nothing is going to happen until June 2 at the earliest, with trade rumors likely floating around long into the summer. But when Week 1 rolls around and the 2021 season kicks off, it would be a surprise if Jones is still playing for the Falcons.