Falcons Trade Rumors: Matt Ryan, Julio Jones Won't Be Moved Despite Buzz

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistFebruary 2, 2021

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan shares a laugh with wide receiver Julio Jones after he made a shoe string catch during NFL football training camp on Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020, in Flowery Branch, Ga. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP, Pool)
Curtis Compton/Associated Press

The Atlanta Falcons aren't looking to move Matt Ryan or Julio Jones, and "every expectation" is the two stars will remain with the team to open the 2021 season, according to NFL Network's Tom Pelissero.

Pelissero cited the salary-cap implications to trading Ryan or Jones as one reason they're likely to stay put:

Tom Pelissero @TomPelissero

From Super Bowl Live: Amidst a crazy offseason for QBs, don't expect the #Falcons' Matt Ryan to go anywhere. @nflnetwork https://t.co/8AWQ1kmE7i

According to Spotrac, trading Ryan before June 1 would force Atlanta to carry $44.4 million in dead money. Waiting until after June 1 would spread that money across 2021 and 2022 while saving the team $23 million. Ryan's trade market may have dried up by that point in the offseason, though.

The situation isn't as bad with Jones but still not really feasible. Offloading him would trigger a $23.3 million dead-money hit.

Many wondered whether the Falcons would look to wipe slate clean this offseason after having fired head coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff. Team owner Arthur Blank told reporters in January he'd allow Quinn and Dimitroff's replacements some latitude about how to handle the two franchise stalwarts:

"What I think is important, most important, is that we hire people who are, number one, the very best at their jobs. That goes without saying. Who will come forward with a plan for us to have a championship team, a competitive team, et cetera. And that may include Matt and Julio for now, for the next two years, three years, or may not. I have no idea."

The Falcons announced the hiring of Arthur Smith as head coach on Jan. 16. During an interview with The MMQB's Albert Breer on Jan. 31, Smith was similarly coy when discussing Ryan and Jones:

"It's hard, until we get all the facts, and [general manager Terry Fontenot] and I go through the roster and map out, 'Here's what we want to do in the short-term, long-term.' Obviously we've got to deal with the salary cap that's here. And there's some good pieces, but there are gonna be some decisions we've got to make going forward that may not affect 2021, but could affect the future, 2022, 2023 and on. That's going to be a long process before we even get to free agents, figuring out what we want to do with this current roster."

Ryan and Jones continue to play at reasonably high levels. Ryan threw for 4,581 yards, 26 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 2020. Jones caught 51 passes for 771 yards and three touchdowns, but he was limited to only nine appearances because of hamstring problems. His 85.1 receiving yards per game were seventh-highest in the league.

Atlanta hasn't had a winning season since 2017, so upgrades are clearly needed for the roster. Ryan and Jones can still have a role to play to help the Falcons return to the postseason.