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Julio Jones Trade Rumors: Teams Calling Falcons Ahead of 2021 NFL Draft

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistApril 26, 2021

FILE - In this Sunday, Dec. 6, 2020 file photo, Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (11) warms up before an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints in Atlanta.  Julio Jones' nagging hamstring injury has made his value more obvious than ever for the Atlanta Falcons. Jones has missed four games this season and his status is in doubt for the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020. (AP Photo/Danny Karnik, File)
Danny Karnik/Associated Press

Teams have reportedly contacted the Atlanta Falcons about a potential trade for wide receiver Julio Jones.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported a deal cannot happen until June 2 because of the Falcons' cap constraints, but interested parties have been gauging Atlanta's interest in moving on from its franchise receiver.

Peter King of NBC Sports mentioned the Las Vegas Raiders, New England Patriots, Baltimore Ravens and Tennessee Titans as potential suitors. A framework of a trade could be put into place and then officially agreed upon when the Falcons could split Jones' cap hit over the next two seasons.

Moving on from Jones in a post-June 1 trade would save the Falcons $15.3 million on their 2021 cap. Atlanta is currently less than $1 million under the cap with draft picks yet to sign, meaning some additional moves are going to be needed to give the team breathing room.

Trading Jones would make some level of sense if the Falcons were planning to begin a rebuild. They could theoretically move on from Matt Ryan after the 2021 season—though it'd be more financially beneficial to wait until 2022—and may wind up tipping their hand in Thursday's first round.

Conventional wisdom says the draft does not begin until the Falcons' pick at No. 4. The Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Jets and San Francisco 49ers are locked into quarterbacks with the first three picks, meaning Atlanta could take the best non-quarterback available, dip its own hand into the quarterback pool or trade back with a team perhaps looking for a signal-caller of its own.

If the Falcons use their first-round pick on a quarterback, the writing's on the wall. Ryan would likely enter the 2021 season as a starter but with a giant "for sale" sign over his head, and the Falcons could look to move Jones for 2022 draft picks as the retooling around their new franchise face begins. 

Calvin Ridley proved himself more than capable of being a WR1 last season, and the 26-year-old fits far better with the timeline of a new quarterback than the elder statesman Jones, who turned 32 in February.