Aaron Rodgers, Julio Jones' Best Landing Spots After 2021 NFL Draft Day 2May 1, 2021
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers reportedly doesn't want to return to the team where he has spent the entirety of his 16-year career. Meanwhile, the Atlanta Falcons could be moving on from wide receiver Julio Jones after 10 seasons.
It's not uncommon for future Hall of Famers to find new NFL homes at the back end of their careers, and the current rumor-and-speculation mill appears to be pointing an arrow toward a pair of splits.
Trading for Rodgers or Jones isn't easy, however, and the ongoing NFL draft is a factor. For example, some team have already made their decisions on their long-term futures at the quarterback position, eliminating a group of franchises from considering Rodgers. Likewise, some teams grabbed potential bona fide No. 1 wideout talents in the draft, perhaps negating the need for Jones.
Plus, both players carry massive cap hits, so the team(s) welcoming them aboard must either (a) have the cap space to make this work or (b) get creative in order to have the cap space to make this work. That's all in addition to factoring in players' desired locations in a trade.
At any rate, Day 2 of the NFL draft in the books, and we may have a clearer picture on where Rodgers an Jones could be headed if trades are pulled off.
Here's a look at two potential landing spots each for Rodgers and Jones.
Aaron Rodgers: Denver Broncos and Las Vegas Raiders
The Denver Broncos and Las Vegas Raiders have been rumored as the top two destinations for Rodgers from multiple sources.
Myles Simmons of Pro Football Talk relayed information from a source that said "two likely destinations would appear to be the Broncos or Raiders."
"There are several key factors," Simmons added.
"A native of California, Rodgers would prefer to play on the West Coast. In trading him, the Packers would want to send him out of the NFC—which would likely eliminate the 49ers as a potential match. And because Green Bay selected Jordan Love in the first round last year, the club would not need a quarterback in return."
Mike Florio of PFT also added this remark from an "unimpeachable source:"
Rumors and speculation were heavy on Thursday that a Broncos-Packers trade could go down, with Jess Place of Mile High Report listing a bunch, including the three below:
Nothing ever materialized, and Mike Silver of NFL Network discussed that as well.
"And then, just two hours before showtime, Paton was compelled to ponder a possibility he never could have envisioned: Aaron Rodgers as the Broncos' quarterback, as if gifted by the football gods.
"By night's end, reality had set in, and Rodgers—at least for now—remained a member of the Green Bay Packers, who'd made it clear to the football world that they had no desire to trade the reigning MVP."
Whichever team trades for Rodgers needs to have some cap space to take him on. David Lombardi made mention of what the cap hits would look like if Rodgers was dealt:
David Lombardi @LombardiHimself
Aaron Rodgers financials… Packers cap hits: 2021: $37.2m 2022: $39.9m 2023: $28.4m Cap hits for potential new team in trade: 2021: $22.9m 2022: $25.5m 2023: $25.5m In terms of the 49ers’ financials, that’d neatly fit with potential Garoppolo savings, in case you’re wondering
That team may also need some patience. ESPN's Dan Graziano also noted why a trade could wait until after June 1:
Denver has over $23 million in cap space, per Over the Cap, and can get it done now. The Raiders have $5.2 million in cap space and would have to make moves to create some room for Rodgers.
Out of those two teams, Denver seems like the most obvious fit. The Broncos have a roster ready to compete after loading up on both sides of the ball in free agency and the draft, but quarterback is a huge question mark.
Drew Lock just tied for the league lead in interceptions after his second year in the league. He could be usurped by Teddy Bridgewater, who was solid but unspectacular in one year as a full-time starter in Carolina last year.
Both players have talent to make a big step forward and give Denver what it needs at quarterback, but Rodgers is a future Hall of Famer and would make the Broncos an instant Super Bowl contender.
It doesn't appear like anything will go down any time soon, but Denver is the top team to watch for Rodgers if the standoff between he and Green Bay continues.
Julio Jones: New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers
The New England Patriots loaded up on offensive skill-position players this offseason, bringing in wide receivers Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne and tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith.
They're clearly looking to win now in 2021 after going 7-9 in 2020, the first year of the post-Tom Brady era.
The Pats still don't have a clear-cut No. 1 wideout option, though, and that's where Jones can fit i.
Speculation and rumors about a potential Patriots-Falcons deal for Jones are out there.
Nick Stevens of WEEI posited this hypothetical trade offer and provided his reasoning:
"I’d open with a 2022 second- and fourth-rounder, plus receiver N’Keal Harry, and wouldn’t hang up if Atlanta countered for a bit more. This deal gives the Falcons future draft capital, plus an affordable receiver replacement option for Jones. It’s a conservative understatement to say Harry may benefit from a fresh start, and if the Falcons move on from Jones there should be an opportunity in Atlanta with head coach Arthur Smith, who had success as the offensive coordinator in Tennessee developing AJ Brown, drafted just after Harry in 2019."
The Pats could likely make a move for Jones work, even though Jones brings a huge cap hit. Spotrac broke down what they would look like for Jones' new team:
New England currently has over $16 million in cap space in 2021 and over $40 million in 2022, per Over the Cap.
Peter King of NBC Sports posited that the Pats could go after Jones and that it may take a second-round pick to land him: "As for the interested team or teams, I would guess Las Vegas; Jon Gruden couldn’t resist Antonio Brown, and I doubt he could resist Julio Jones. New England too, and a couple of teams with clear receiver needs—Tennessee and Baltimore."
Tori McElhaney of The Athletic mentioned the Baltimore Ravens, Patriots, Raiders, 49ers and Los Angeles Chargers as possibilities before the draft, with these remarks on the Pats in particular.
"Perhaps add the Patriots and Raiders to the list of potential suitors as well. Both could use Jones, and it’s not crazy to think they wouldn’t go after him if he’s on the table."
She also added this remark about the 49ers: "Then, there’s the 49ers and Kyle Shanahan, who already has grabbed Alex Mack this offseason. Per Spotrac, if the 49ers trade or release Jimmy Garoppolo, it would free up enough cap space to cover the 49ers’ top 51 draft pool and nearly all of Jones’ 2021 salary."
The 49ers have a loaded offense on paper with wideouts Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel and tight end George Kittle. Adding Jones into the mix arguably gives San Francisco the most explosive offense in football, with the exception of Kansas City.
San Francisco is two years removed from a Super Bowl appearance, and an unusual rash of injuries last year prevented a playoff return. If the 49ers have a healthier season and can bring Jones into the mix, they'll be Super Bowl contenders once again.
Ultimately, that's a lot easier said than done, and Jones could just end up returning to Atlanta for his 11th season. Like Rodgers, however, Jones is a player to watch as the offseason progresses.