There’s a darn good chance that a Julio Jones trade will happen at some point between now and before the start of training camp in July.
The Atlanta Falcons are said to be open to trading the seven-time Pro Bowl receiver with the chances of him being moved increasing on a daily basis.
Despite Jones’ bloated contract and advanced age, pretty much every contending team would come calling if he were dealt. That includes the San Francisco 49ers, who just so happen to boast a head coach in Kyle Shanahan who worked with Jones in Atlanta. Below, are three reasons why a Julio Jones trade to the 49ers makes sense.
San Francisco 49ers can realistically afford Julio Jones
The 49ers currently find themselves $17.83 million under the 2021 NFL salary cap before their rookie class has been signed. That includes No. 3 overall pick Trey Lance. This could complicate things. But it’s a better cap situation than those who have been linked to a Julio Jones trade over the past few weeks.
One of the issues as it relates to a potential Jones blockbuster is the fact that he’ll count $15.3 million against the cap for an acquiring team. As of right now, less than half of the NFL’s 32 teams have that type of financial flexibility.
For San Francisco, they can create wiggle room by making a few moves. Restructuring the contracts of Arik Armstead, Jimmie Ward and Laken Tomlinson would save a cool $15.2 million against the cap. Signing the latter two to extensions would save roughly $8 million. In short, the salary cap would not act as a short-term deterrent to the 49ers acquiring Jones.
Kyle Shanahan and Julio Jones’ dynamic fit with the 49ers
In Shanahan’s two seasons as the Falcons’ offensive coordinator (2015, 2016), Jones caught a combined 219 passes for 3,280 yards and 14 touchdowns. It helped Matt Ryan win an NFL MVP award en route to leading Atlanta to a Super Bowl appearance in 2016.
Needless to say, the relationship between these two could very well play a big role if the 49ers were to acquire Jones. In terms of the fit in San Francisco’s offense, it would be otherworldly. Stud young receiver Deebo Samuel could move to the slot position with Brandon Aiyuk starring outside opposite Jones. Add in the presence of All-Pro tight end George Kittle, and the 49ers would be set up to succeed on offense regardless of whether Jimmy Garoppolo or Trey Lance is under center.
Trade compensation in a Julio Jones blockbuster
San Francisco is without its first-round pick in each of the next two years after trading up for Trey Lance in the 2021 NFL Draft. That might seem to complicate things. However, the going rate for Jones seems to be a second-round pick and change. The 49ers can easily offer that up in hopes of returning to Super Bowl contention in 2021.
Shanahan himself touched on the possibility of acquiring someone of Jones’ ilk a few years back. It speaks to potential compensation heading back to Atlanta in a hypothetical trade.
“There aren’t many (elite guys),” Shanahan said back in 2018. “If there’s a Julio available and you have the opportunity to get him, you go get him. It’s worth it. Whatever the price is, whatever the draft pick is, go get him. There aren’t too many Julio’s on this planet.”
Despite Jones dealing with an injury-plagued 2020 campaign and being on the wrong side of 30, it’s hard to imagine that Shanahan’s stance has changed too much. If it’s a second-round pick that the 49ers have to pay to acquire Julio Jones, you better believe Shanahan is texting general manager John Lynch on a never-ending loop.