Social media is abuzz Monday in the wake of NBC Sports' Peter King, Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer and NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reporting that it wouldn't be a surprise if the Atlanta Falcons traded franchise icon and future Hall of Fame wide receiver Julio Jones this offseason as the team starts a rebuild. Other clubs have been calling the Falcons about the possibility. SportsLine offers NFL odds on Jones' next team – whether it's by Week 1, before the 2021 trade deadline or even next year.
There were rumors that the Falcons might trade either Jones or quarterback Matt Ryan before last season's trade deadline – in fact, one sportsbook in late October (trade deadline was Nov. 3) offered odds of +550 that Jones would be dealt and -1000 that he wouldn't.
The 32-year-old, who is the NFL's all-time receiving yardage per game leader at 95.5 and a five-time All-Pro, is still a productive player but played just nine games in 2020 due to nagging injuries and caught 51 passes for 771 yards and three scores. For some reason, Jones has never been a big TD guy, reaching double digits just once with 10 TD grabs in 2012. His 1,871 yards receiving in 2015 are the second-most in league history behind Calvin Johnson's 1,964 in 2012 for Detroit.
Teams are calling the Falcons in the hopes they are desperate to unload Jones to add cap room – he got a three-year, $66 million deal in 2019 that included $64 million guaranteed. As it stands right now, the Falcons wouldn't even be able to sign their draft class.
GM Terry Fontenot didn't deny that the team would listen when speaking to an Atlanta TV station on Monday.
"That's one of those things when you're doing things the right way in an organization, you have to listen if people call, on any player," Fontenot told FOX 5. "Especially, we are in a difficult cap situation, that's just the circumstance and it's not a surprise for us. We knew the circumstance we were in. Our administration has done an excellent job up to this point getting us in a position to be able to manage the cap, and yet we still have more work to do. ...
"So when teams call about any players then we have to listen and we have to weigh it and we have to determine what's best for the organization and we have to handle everything with class."
Nothing will happen before June 1 as the Falcons would suffer a cap hit of $23.25 million and lose $200,000 overall against their cap if they dealt him before that date. After June 1, Jones' dead cap hit would fall to $7.75 million and the team would net $15.3 million in savings as it could split Jones' cap charge between 2021 and 2022.
Atlanta almost surely is not taking a receiver with the No. 4 overall pick in this week's draft. William Hill Sportsbook offers a prop on the position of the team's first drafted player, whether it's No. 4 or it moves back, and tight end – i.e. Florida's Kyle Pitts – is a -130 favorite followed by quarterback at +180 (quarterback had been favored for a while). Receiver is +1400.
However, should the Falcons take a wideout perhaps in Round 2, that could be a sign they are ready to move Jones. Atlanta already has a No. 1 replacement on the roster in Calvin Ridley, who caught 90 passes for 1,374 yards and nine scores last year. Also keep in mind that the team has a new GM and head coach and they have no ties to Jones. Owner Arthur Blank has said he wouldn't stand in the way if his new brass wanted to trade Jones.
Were a trade to happen, Jones surely would insist on moving to a contender. Las Vegas, Baltimore, New England and Tennessee were mentioned by King.
It's almost shocking the Ravens haven't addressed the position yet this offseason (Antonio Brown is still a possibility) and they could take a wideout with their first-round pick Thursday. Fox Sports NFL insider Jay Glazer said on an Instagram Live session the Ravens were the team that called the Falcons about Jones.
The Titans lost No. 2 WR Corey Davis and tight end Jonnu Smith in free agency. Las Vegas has a lot of good receivers but no true No. 1 and Jon Gruden loves big-name veteran free agents. So does Bill Belichick.
Philadelphia and Indianapolis are two teams that also come to mind with receiver needs, although the Eagles perhaps aren't contenders. The Colts certainly are.
Via SportsLine oddsmakers: Julio Jones' next team
- Ravens +250
- Raiders +300
- Titans +500
- Patriots +700
- Eagles +900
- Colts +1000
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