The Atlanta Falcons reportedly have an offer for Julio Jones that includes a first-round pick.
With ESPN’s Dianna Russini reporting the Atlanta Falcons have at least one offer for wide receiver Julio Jones that includes a 2022 first-round pick, let’s narrow down the field of which NFL teams can realistically afford to make a trade for him.
Jones will make $15.3 million in base salary for 2021 in his age-32 season out of Alabama. He gets a $5 million signing bonus this upcoming season, as well as a $2.750 million option bonus. Jones has a potential out in his deal ahead of the 2023 NFL season. He does not hit unrestricted free agency until 2024 ahead of his age-35 season. It will be a quite the haul to trade for him.
How many NFL teams have the financial resources to make a trade for Jones this offseason?
Julio Jones trade rumors: What NFL teams can afford to trade for the WR?
If you look at teams with at least $15.3 million in available cap space, that only encompasses 12 of them. From there, you need to see what teams plan on being good enough to not hand the Falcons a great first-round pick, meaning they expect to be in the 2021 NFL Playoffs. While other teams below this $15.3 million threshold can open up cap space, let’s keep an eye on these four.
The four teams who can afford Jones as soon as the clock strikes midnight on June 1 are the Los Angeles Chargers ($20.4 million), the New England Patriots ($20.2 million), the San Francisco 49ers ($17.4 million) and the Indianapolis Colts ($17.2 million). The Cleveland Browns ($21.1 million) and the Washington Football Team ($21 million) can “technically” afford Jones as well.
The other six teams above the $15.3 million threshold do not feel like playoff teams right now, so they would not be comfortable with giving up a top-half pick for an aging Jones at wide receiver. Of the four contending teams listed above, here is the order in which it makes the most sense for Jones to be traded to: 1. New England. 2. Indianapolis 3. San Francisco 4. Los Angeles.
Jones has friendship with Patriots quarterback Cam Newton from their days competing in the SEC West and the NFC South. He played college ball for noted Bill Belichick disciple Nick Saban. Jones is a smart player and is about the work, which would lead us to believe he would buy into The Patriot Way. Plus, the Patriots do not plan on being a sub-.500 team again with Belichick getting up there.
Indianapolis could be the favorite to win the AFC South going away by trading for Jones. He would make things infinitely easier for newcomer quarterback Carson Wentz. Pairing Jones opposite of T.Y. Hilton could make for one impressive receiving corps. However, this feels like too risky of a maneuver for the risk-averse Colts to take on under conservative general manager Chris Ballard.
Jones has starred playing in Kyle Shanahan’s offense during his days in Atlanta. San Francisco should be a playoff team in 2021 … if healthy. The problem is the 49ers regularly have their star players getting hurt and they play in the same conference as the Falcons. Atlanta would prefer to trade Jones to an AFC team, all things equal. However, the 49ers are the best option in the NFC.
And for the Chargers, Jones could emerge as second-year pro Justin Herbert’s favorite receiving target. However, the Bolts play in the same AFC West as the Kansas City Chiefs, meaning they will likely have to settle for one of three Wild Card berths in 2021. Admittedly, the Chargers do feel like a top-seven team in the AFC, but their playoff status is more up in the air than the other three.
So what team will trade for Jones? The best bet has to be the Patriots, unless other contending teams like the Baltimore Ravens, the Green Bay Packers or the Tennessee Titans free up more cap space to be able to take on his contract. While Jones may downgrade at quarterback from Matt Ryan to Cam Newton, the New England culture is too strong for them not to win 10 or 11 games.
Don’t be surprised if Jones is dealt to the Patriots in the next few weeks, as they are the favorite.