Julio Jones Trade Rumors: Falcons Asked Teams for 1st-Round Pick Before 2021 Draft

Tyler Conway@@jtylerconwayFeatured Columnist IVMay 24, 2021

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (11) speaks to a teammate during the second half of an NFL football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020, in Atlanta. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers won 31-27. (AP Photo/Danny Karnik)
AP Photo/Danny Karnik

The Atlanta Falcons were reportedly seeking a first-round pick for wide receiver Julio Jones ahead of the 2021 NFL draft.

Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated reported the Falcons could not find a taker because "the climate in the NFL right now isn't conducive to getting value for an expensive 32-year-old receiver."

Jones is due $15.3 million guaranteed for the 2021 season. The Falcons have explored trading the future Hall of Famer because of cap constraints, as they currently have just $357,027 in salary-cap room and cannot sign draft picks until they free up more space.

Trading Jones after June 1 would free up $15.3 million, giving the Falcons more than enough room to sign their picks without making any other alterations to their roster or pushing more money into the future. They already restructured the contracts of quarterback Matt Ryan, linebacker Deion Jones and left tackle Jake Matthews this offseason.

The most obvious school of thought here is that the Falcons committed themselves to compete in 2021 by restructuring those deals rather than starting a full-scale rebuild. They could have added Ryan's long-term replacement in Justin Fields at No. 4 but selected tight end Kyle Pitts instead.

The logic behind trading Jones after making all of those moves—especially for anything less than a first-round pick—seems questionable. Jones was still one of the NFL's best receivers last season when healthy, registering 51 receptions for 771 yards and three touchdowns in nine games.

It's almost certain that Jones will perform at a level high enough next season that his value will be equivalent to what it is now in trade talks. If the Falcons are committed to winning in 2021, they're making themselves worse in every aspect by moving on from the best receiver in franchise history.

Doing so at a discount would raise even more eyebrows.