The Atlanta Falcons are seeking a Julio Jones trade partner, and among the destinations being touted, one prominent NFL insider believes three make the most sense.
CBSSports.com’s Jason La Canfora used a combination of the insight he’s gathered from his sources and the presumed teams in on the Jones sweepstakes to project where he might land.
A couple of the suitors are quite logical, but there’s one inevitable wild card among the bunch.
3 likely Julio Jones trade destinations: Patriots, 49ers and Eagles
La Canfora’s rationale behind Julio Jones landing in either New England, San Francisco or Philadelphia is compelling in all cases.
For the Patriots, acquiring Jones could be such a monumental move that it becomes their “Randy Moss 2.0.” That worked out pretty well when Moss came to play with Tom Brady, and they combined to help New England to an undefeated 2007 season, connecting on 23 touchdowns.
If Jones found his way to the 49ers, he’d be reuniting with former Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. The familiarity factor is there. Jones would love to catch passes from either Jimmy Garoppolo or Trey Lance in the coming years, and he’d be flanked by talented targets in Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk.
The Eagles seem like a less obvious, less attractive destination, but they do have three first-round picks in the 2022 NFL Draft. Should Atlanta’s asking price be a first-rounder, Philadelphia is in prime position to serve that up.
However, a less-certain QB situation in Philly between Jalen Hurts and Joe Flacco, not to mention a new coaching staff, may just put Jones in a worse-off spot than he is right now. It’s doubtful the Falcons would part with him on bad terms and stick him with a potentially bad team.
Which team is Julio Jones’ best overall fit?
Jones is all about winning, and no team has done that as consistently for the better part of two decades than the Patriots. They have enough cap space to take him on, have whiffed on the wide receiver position on numerous occasions, and could use a star veteran to fill out their skill position group.
Although many are down on Cam Newton rebounding from an uneven 2020 campaign, he’s not learning a new offense on the fly this coming year. New England coach Bill Belichick also upgraded the team’s pass-catchers in an aggressive free agency period, most notably acquiring tight ends Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry.
A separate report has stated that Jones actually wants to play with Newton on the Patriots. Jones probably took notice how effective the former MVP was when they used to face off twice a year in the NFC South.
Considering that Matt Ryan seems to have plenty of good football left in him and has been among the league’s most consistent QBs, it says a lot that Jones is reportedly holding Newton in such high esteem.
One win-win scenario for both teams would be a one-for-one player trade wherein the Pats give the Falcons a desperately needed leader for their defense in cornerback Stephon Gilmore in exchange for Jones. That’d be a great outcome for both sides, and New England could even kick in an extra draft pick if Atlanta wants it.
Whatever the cost is to land Jones, it’s going to take something extra for the Patriots to get him over, say, the Eagles and their draft capital. San Francisco burned two future first-rounders to move up for Lance in the 2021 draft, so its bargaining chips are limited.
Once the June 1 deadline lapses, Atlanta can spread Jones’ dead cap hit out over multiple seasons as it clears necessary space instead of hanging onto him for the remainder of his lucrative contract. It shouldn’t be long before a deal goes down, because Jones will want to hit the ground running with his new team, and has been nothing but a class act throughout his time with the Falcons.
Wherever he goes, Jones should have a better shot at winning his first Super Bowl than he’d have in Atlanta in 2021.