I know, I know, another article tailored around Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones. The rumors and overall landscape of the NFL offseason can be tiring because it is, but when it involves a potential move of one of the league’s generational talents at their position, you bet we’ll have you covered from every angle at The Draft Network.
As June 1 has come and gone with Jones, for now, in Atlanta, the ears of NFL brass have begun to perk up ever so slightly. The first of the month signified a crucial turning point in the potential development of discussions as teams now have the ability to spread out salary cap hits over the next two years, instead of taking it all in the current year for players who are released or traded. For Jones, whose talent would unquestionably boost a roster, his cap hit of $23.05 million in 2021 and $19.26 million the following two seasons represent a large number to accommodate without flexibility. Now beyond the first-of-the-month threshold, teams interested in the two-time All Pro’s services have the potential leeway needed if they were to strike a deal.
A slew of teams have been linked to Jones, but who’s in the best position to make the Falcons an offer they can’t refuse? Let’s take a look at three offers the most buzzed-about Jones suitors could make that newly minted Atlanta general manager Terry Fontenot shouldn’t turn down.
New England Patriots trade wide receiver N’Keal Harry, 2022 first-round pick, and 2022 fourth-round pick.
Despite the number of interested teams and ongoing turntable of potential trade packages, the Patriots have found themselves in the best spot to land Jones with the assets available to dangle both young talent and a future first-round selection in front of Fontenot. As reports highlight Fontenot’s frugal approach turning his head to anything less than a first-round selection, it would be far-fetched to see Jones land anywhere else due to the aforementioned return on value New England could deliver in return.
While the Falcons find themselves in a nice spot with Calvin Ridley and polished first-year tight end Kyle Pitts as their top two options in the pass game, the loss of Jones would undoubtedly limit the ceiling of the two budding current Falcons pass-catchers. Harry, a first-round selection in 2019, hasn’t lived up to the billing in the early stages of his career; but as we’ve seen far too often in sports, a change of scenery could do wonders for the physically gifted prospect in Harry, who doubled his production from year one to year two for the Patriots last fall.
Tennessee Titans trade 2022 first-round pick, 2022 third-round pick, and linebacker Rashaan Evans.
While the Patriots are able to offer an unproven, young talent at wideout to replace the presence of Jones, along with a high round selection, the Titans could be forced to throw in an additional Day 2 or higher selection if they project Jones in Tennessee this fall. The Titans have left A.J. Brown out to dry, as he represents the only premier pass-catching talent currently within the Titans roster following the loss of Corey Davis in free agency. With Jones, it changes everything offensively for a Titans group headlined by the steamrolling talent in running back Derrick Henry, arguably the league’s top back. While you can make the obvious Arthur Smith to Tennessee connections, the potential tandem of Evans and Deion Jones in the middle of Atlanta’s defense could be the motivator to close a deal.
While Fontenot’s penny-pinching approach could be a frustrating hurdle to overcome, building from the inside-out while acquiring major assets in future drafts could be the ideal card to play for the first-year general manager as the Falcons enter their rebuild.
Seattle Seahawks trade 2022 second-round pick, 2023 second-round pick, and defensive tackle Poona Ford.
If the Falcons are unwilling to budge from their first-round or bust approach, then the Seahawks are out, as they are without a first-rounder in 2022 following the acquisition of safety Jamal Adams last offseason, but if Atlanta is willing to wiggle through the obstacles and accrue assets for the next two years, including an interior presence on a cheap contract, then head coach Pete Carroll and company could be in business.
Pairing Russell Wilson with DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, and first-year talent D’Wayne Eskridge is already a daunting enough task to game plan for, but throw Jones into the mix, and Seattle begins to play with fire. While relinquishing second-round picks in consecutive seasons could be a jab in the ribs, an explosive Seahawks offense could potentially carry a below-average defensive group to the postseason on the shoulders of Wilson with Jones now in the fold. If anyone were to surprise and make a move for the seven-time Pro Bowl honoree, I’d place my bets on Carroll.