Julio Jones Trade Will Radically Change the League: The NFL offseason is in full swing, and rumors galore have been circulating since its start. One that only recently has made headlines has been the drama that now surrounds Julio Jones and his future with the Atlanta Falcons. After a 4-12 season that led Atlanta to missing the playoffs for the third season in a row, one can only imagine the frustration among the players about the direction the franchise is headed. General Manager Thomas Dimitroff and Head Coach Dan Quinn were both ousted as a result, but it’s hard to blame players like Julio Jones for not wanting to stick through a rebuild instead of having an opportunity to win the Super Bowl.
However, no player has been more verbal, intentionally or not, on their future than Jones was on Undisputed when host Shannon Sharpe gave him a call. While the journalistic standards(or lack thereof) of this call won’t be discussed, the biggest headline comes from Jones stating plainly “I’m outta there.” With the Falcons’ limited cap space and need to sign draft picks, along with Jones desire to play elsewhere, it seems a foregone conclusion that he will play for another team this coming season. The only question that remains is where? Although Jones is nearing the latter half of his career, he is still a formidable force on the field, and any team that could land him will have their fortunes change dramatically, especially if they can pair him up with a good QB and supporting receivers.
While the Falcons have been willing to deal the veteran WR since around the time of the draft, possible destinations that would take on his contract haven’t been easy to come by. Only recently have rumors circulated of where Jones would like to take his talents to, and have included the likes of New England, San Francisco, and Tennessee. All three spots would provide Jones with the opportunity to compete, and the opportunity to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2017.
The New England Option
With New England, they’re very much in a retooling phase of sorts, still feeling the effects of the departure of Tom Brady. And after this offseason, it seems as though Belichick and his team are ready to compete for the playoffs, with major signings on both offense and defense. Those offensive signings looked to bolster the weak receiving core with the likes of Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne joining the team, alongside new tight ends Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry.
Were Jones to join the Patriots in a trade, they would be in the discussion of having the best overall group of receivers in the league. Jones only put up 771 yards last season, but he only played in nine games. He still has the ability to put up over 1000 yards in the season, and would immediately slot in as the Patriots’ number one receiver. He would provide a deep threat, while Agholor and Bourne can work towards the inside. Henry and Smith both would provide valuable pass blocking and receiving opportunities when Jones is covered. A Jones move to New England would make their passing game perhaps the most versatile in the NFL, and prove difficult for secondaries to properly cover all of the passing options.
Reunion with Kyle Shanahan
San Francisco would be an intriguing fit for Jones, as current head coach Kyle Shanahan was the offensive coordinator for the Falcons for the 2015 and 2016 seasons. 2015 saw Jones put up the most yards in a season for his career(1871) and most receptions(136). In 2016, the Falcons were the highest scoring offense in the league and made it to the Super Bowl, and in any reasonable circumstance, should’ve won. If there is any offensive-minded coach that could utilize Jones to the best of his ability, it would be Shanahan.
This isn’t to say San Francisco doesn’t already have weapons. Tight end George Kittle is arguably one of the best pass-catching tight ends the league has ever seen, and he alone puts huge pressure on the secondaries. However, Julio Jones coming to the 49ers provides cover for Kittle, reducing the pressure he would face from secondaries as defenses would not be able to afford doubling Kittle and potentially leaving Jones alone deep down the field, and vice versa. And while Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk would provide support in the slot and as other options when their top stars are matched up against the best secondaries in the league, it’d be the Kittle and Jones show in San Francisco.
Two Titans in Tennessee
It’s not a secret that players across different teams talk and work out with each other, and some are pretty close to one another. And from this, recruiting pitches to join one another’s teams come out, and sure enough, Titans wide receiver AJ Brown is doing this with Julio Jones, making it abundantly clear that he’d like to play alongside the seven-time pro bowler. From tweets and public comments, and going so far as to make a recruitment video of sorts, Brown is making it known to the world that he’s asking Jones to join him in Tennessee.
And Brown would be well served if he was able to find himself on the Titans come the start of the 2021 NFL season. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill has had a career resurgence with the Titans, putting up his career best in touchdowns last season, and passing for the most yards in his career since 2015. Not much has to be said about running back Derrick Henry, the most dominant rusher the league has seen in years, and the AP’s NFL Offensive Player of the Year last year. And AJ Brown has proven to be a star in the making early in his career, going over one thousand yards receiving in his first two seasons in the league, and named to the pro bowl this past season. The Titans would be able to dominate both passing and receiving if Jones were to head there, allowing for an offense that would be multi-dimensional and confuse defensive coordinators.
The future of Julio Jones will likely reside somewhere outside of Atlanta, as although management would likely want to keep him, constraints with the salary cap and his public comments will result in him being traded elsewhere. And all the better for Jones, who can find himself playing for a contending team, and get a chance to capture what has eluded him for his entire career: a Super Bowl win.