Potential Trade Packages, Landing Spots for Julio Jones in 2021
The Atlanta Falcons are entering a new era next year with a new head coach and general manager. A lot of changes could be made this offseason, including the departure of star wide receiver Julio Jones.
ESPN's Jeremy Fowler reported this week that the Falcons have discussed Jones as a possible trade piece this offseason. A move would allow the Falcons to acquire additional assets while offloading the remainder of Jones' contract to jump-start their rebuild.
Plenty of teams will be calling to ask about Jones. The 31-year-old receiver has racked up almost 13,000 yards in his career, and although he's played in just nine games in 2020, he still caught 51 passes for 771 yards and three touchdowns.
Virtually every NFL team could use Jones on their roster, but only a handful could realistically afford to take on the remainder of his contact. He is under contract through the 2023 season, with his cap hit counting for at least $19.2 million each year.
Still, teams with the cap space looking for a true No. 1 receiver will be lining up to make a move, so let's take a look at a few realistic destinations and trade packages.
New England Patriots
Patriots Receive: Julio Jones
Falcons Receive: 2021 first-round pick, 2021 sixth-round pick, 2022 third-round pick
The New England Patriots will miss the playoffs for the first time since 2008 after an ugly season from their offense. Upgrading the passing game will be a top priority this offseason for Bill Belichick, and he could do that by bringing in Jones.
The Patriots rank 30th in the NFL with just 176.8 passing yards per game. Cam Newton will be a free agent this offseason, so it's likely that Belichick will want to find someone else to play under center next year.
Meanwhile, an upgrade at receiver is desperately needed. The team's leading receiver is Jakobi Meyers with 661 yards, and no receiver on the roster has more than two touchdowns.
Trading for Jones would give whoever the next quarterback for the Patriots a top-tier weapon. They have a projected $72 million in cap space next year to take on Jones' contract, along with a potential top-15 draft pick to offer in a trade.
Losing a top draft pick could make harder for the Patriots to find their future quarterback, but if they can find one in free agency, their passing game could look drastically better in 2021.
Ravens Receive: Julio Jones, 2021 sixth-round pick
Falcons Receive: 2021 first-round pick, 2021 third-round pick, 2022 third-round pick
The Baltimore Ravens looked like a legitimate Super Bowl contender last season, but their offense has taken a step back in 2020 as they look to secure a wild card spot with a win over the Bengals in Week 17.
Lamar Jackson has been much more contained this season after being named the league's Most Valuable Player in 2019. He's been particularly less dangerous throwing the ball, with the Ravens ranking 31st in the NFL with just 174.5 passing yards per game.
Marquise Brown could use another talented receiver on the roster to take some of the pressure off of him. Willie Snead IV, Miles Boykin and Devin Duvernay have all had quiet seasons, but the Ravens could make a blockbuster trade for Julio Jones to give Jackson and their offense another weapon.
Jones would complement Brown's skill set perfectly in Baltimore. While Jones could act as a possession receiver on the outside, Brown could focus on taking the top off of defenses with his explosiveness and top-end speed.
The Ravens have an estimated $26 million in cap space next year, so they could afford to bring Jones in. The Falcons could ask for quite a bit if they aren't able to secure an earlier first-round pick. However, for a team in win-now mode with Jackson still on his rookie deal, the Ravens are a team that could realistically pull the trigger on a Jones trade.
New York Jets
Jets Receive: Julio Jones
Falcons Receive: 2021 first-round pick, 2022 second-round pick
With two straight wins, the New York Jets have taken themselves out of the race for the No. 1 overall pick. However, the franchise still has plenty of assets and cap space to rebuild this offseason.
The Jets will have two first-round picks, including the No. 2 overall selection, where they could either draft their next franchise quarterback or give current QB Sam Darnold some help on the offensive line or at wide receiver.
Assuming they don't take a receiver, they have enough draft capital that they could make a move for Jones without sacrificing their long-term rebuild. Along with two first-round picks, the Jets have the highest projected cap space for 2021 at around $81.6 million.
They could give up the first-round pick they acquired from the Seattle Seahawks to trade for Jones while still drafting either another offensive tackle or a new quarterback at No. 2 overall. The offense could look entirely different with a No. 1 receiver, a top draft pick and potentially a new head coach to replace Adam Gase.
Trading for Jones won't immediately turn the Jets into playoff contenders, but it would help.
Colts Receive: Julio Jones
Falcons Receive: 2021 first-round pick, 2021 fourth-round pick, 2022 third-round pick
Even if the Indianapolis Colts end up missing the playoffs this year, the franchise is set up well to reload and make another run at the postseason in 2021.
It is unclear who will be playing under center for the Colts next year, however. Philip Rivers only signed a one-year deal with the team, and at 39 years old it's unclear if he plans to play again in 2020. Jacoby Brissett is a suitable backup quarterback, but he has done little to convince anyone he's a long-term option considering his previous play as a starter in 2019.
Regardless of who the next quarterback is, they're going to need some help at wide receiver. T.Y. Hilton will be a free agent this offseason, and if he doesn't come back, the Colts could use a star player at the position to take some of the focus off of Zach Pascal and Michael Pittman Jr.
Considering the Colts are projected to have more than $64 million in cap space, they could afford to make an aggressive move to acquire Jones. They don't have a ton of glaring needs as a team outside of receiver and quarterback, so trading for the Falcons star receiver would address one of their top needs before making another playoff run in 2021.
Dolphins Receive: Julio Jones, 2020 fifth-round pick
Falcons Receive: 2021 first-round pick, 2021 second-round pick
Of all of the potential trade destinations for Julio Jones, the Miami Dolphins might be the most realistic and intriguing.
The Dolphins have built a talented young offense that will be Tua Tagovailoa's to run on a full-time basis in 2021. After investing heavily in the offensive line last offseason, the Dolphins can turn their attention to giving Tua more weapons at receiver besides DeVante Parker and Jakeem Grant.
The Dolphins have plenty of draft capital to offer the Atlanta Falcons for Jones. They have nine total draft picks for 2021, including two first- and second-round picks thanks to a trade with the Houston Texans. They also have a projected $32.3 million in cap space next year, so taking on Jones' contract wouldn't be an issue.
Dolphins general manager Chris Grier has collected a ton of draft picks over the past few years, but that abundance of draft capital in 2021 allows him to make an aggressive move for a team right in the middle of the playoff hunt.
By bringing in a superstar like Jones, the Dolphins might have all of the pieces in play next year to be more than just a fringe playoff contender.
All contract and salary cap information provided by Spotrac.