It’s no surprise that the San Francisco 49ers have been among those linked to a Julio Jones trade after reports surfaced that the Atlanta Falcons were looking to move the seven-time Pro Bowl receiver.
Even after signing veterans Marqise Lee and Mohamed Sanu earlier in the offseason, San Francisco is in need of another wide receiver. Jones, 32, would be an ideal fit with Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel.
The future Hall of Famer also has a built-in relationship with San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan dating back to their days together in Atlanta in 2015 and 2016.
In talking with former NFL receiver Michael Irvin on a recent podcast, Shanahan opened up about the possibility of acquiring Jones.
“Julio Jones, for everybody, especially if you had a chance to coach him, he’s what you’re saying and more,” Shanahan told Irving (h/t 49ersWebzone). “I mean, the dude is one-of-a-kind. He makes coaching a lot — a lot — easier. That’s why everyone feels the same about Julio. That’s why I don’t worry about saying that. That’s like common knowledge. Everyone knows Julio is on a different level. That’s why he’s a special guy.”
It was a couple years ago that Shanahan indicated that if an opportunity were to present itself in terms of getting Jones, “you go get him. It’s worth it. Whatever the price, whatever the draft pick is, go get him.”
Right now, it doesn’t seem like Shanahan’s stance has changed too much since he made those comments back in 2018.
“And I don’t know what their situation is, but I do know everyone feels that way about Julio. Watch him, and any person will see for themselves that he is a different dude,” the head coach told Irvin.
Is a Julio Jones trade realistic for the San Francisco 49ers?
The 32-year-old Jones would count $15.3 Million against the cap in 2021 if the 49ers were to acquire him. After signing a majority of their draft picks, rookie No. 3 pick Trey Lance not included, San Francisco is roughly $17.1 million under the cap.
Obviously, a contract restructure would make the most sense in this regard. San Francisco can also create more cap room by extending the likes of guard Laken Tomlinson and safety Jimmie Ward — two players who fit into the team’s long-term future.
From a financial perspective, the easiest route to acquiring Julio Jones would be for the San Francisco 49ers to trade or release quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. However, that doesn’t seem to be in the cards right now with the former Super Bowl signal caller slated to compete with Trey Lance for the 49ers’ starting gig during training camp.
A potential Jones trade is also complicated by the fact that San Francisco dealt away two future first-round picks and a 2022 third-rounder to move up from the 12th pick to No. 3 overall in the 2021 NFL Draft for the aforementioned Lance. Right now, the going rate for Jones seems to be a second-round pick and change.
Julio Jones is a perfect fit for the San Francisco 49ers
A move to acquire Jones would likely mean Deebo Samuel transitions from the outside to the slot receiver position with Brandon Aiyuk lining up opposite Jones. Add in All-Pro tight end George Kittle, and this would be an elite skill-position group.
In his two seasons under then-Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan in 2015 and 2016, Jones hauled in a combined 219 passes for 3,280 yards.
While his advanced age and recent injury concerns complicate things, there’s no reason to believe Jones wouldn’t fit in with the San Francisco 49ers.
Perhaps, he could also help Trey Lance transition from small-school college ball to a Week 1 starter in the NFL should the talented quarterback beat out Garoppolo during training camp.