Julio Jones, Richard Sherman's Best Landing Spots After 2021 NFL DraftMay 2, 2021
With the 2021 NFL draft completed, the attention around the league turns back to the veteran players on the free-agent and trade markets.
Fox Sports' Jay Glazer reported the Baltimore Ravens contacted the Atlanta Falcons about the availability of Julio Jones, putting the seven-time Pro Bowlers status with the only team he's ever played for in doubt. If the Falcons are willing to part ways with their longtime star, he would no doubt serve as one of the top skill players on the trade block.
Another multi-time Pro Bowler also is up for grabs as cornerback Richard Sherman remains unsigned as a free agent.
Here's a look at the best landing spots for both.
Falcons WR Julio Jones
The biggest impediment to a Jones trade remains his massive contract.
Entering his age-32 season, Jones is set to earn $15.3 million with a cap hit of $23.1 million. He'll earn another $11.5 million in 2022 with a cap hit of $19.2 million with a potential opt-out after the season if he chooses.
Those two contract components will be difficult to navigate on the trade market—but not impossible.
As Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio noted, the Ravens checked in on Jones likely in an attempt to see what the Falcons would be able to do to make a deal more palatable from a cap perspective:
"The Ravens may want the Falcons to pay some of that money. The Panthers, for example, agreed on Wednesday to pay $7 million of the $10 million guarantee owed to quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to facilitate a trade for a measly sixth-round pick to the Broncos. The Dolphins a day earlier agreed to pay $6 million of the $9 million owed to offensive lineman Ereck Flowers to grease the skids for a trade to Washington. If the Falcons are motivated to move Jones, they possibly also need to be motivated to pay part of his salary in 2021.
"In turn, Jones possibly needs to be willing to adjust his contract. While taking less than $15.3 million for 2021 should be a non-starter since it’s all guaranteed, he could restructure the deal to shrink the cap number this year."
As far as teams with free cap space go, the Jacksonville Jaguars have $16.7 million available and could pair rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence with Jones. The Jags had the 14th-worst receiving offense last season (247.2 yards per game) and could benefit from a veteran who routinely comes up with big plays.
The New York Jets are another team that makes sense for Jones.
After finishing with the second-worst receiving offense in 2020 (194.7 yards per game), New York is rebuilding the unit with rookie quarterback Zach Wilson while still holding $10.5 million in cap space.
Perhaps the biggest wild card to land Jones, the Los Angeles Chargers have enough assets—not to mention $14.5 million in cap space—to pair the wideout with the reigning offensive Rookie of the Year in QB Justin Herbert.
Free-Agent CB Richard Sherman
Spotrac projects the veteran cornerback's market value at $9.9 million per year, believing him likely to sign for two years and $20 million.
After tallying 18 combined tackles, one interception and one pass deflection in five games with the San Francisco 49ers last year, that may be a bit generous. Sherman hasn't played a full 16-game season since 2016 and hasn't earned a Pro Bowl nod since 2019.
At this point in his career, Sherman is more of a depth player than a starting corner, but he provides as much value as any second-string player in any secondary across the league.
Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll confirmed the team has been in touch with Sherman about a possible reunion, but that doesn't appear likely.
"That's not one of our thoughts right now that we're going out and getting another guy at that spot, but we're going to keep looking," he told reporters Saturday. "We're not going to stop looking and we're going to compete. So in that sense, I leave everything open and that's just one of them."
If Sherman wishes to stay out West, the Las Vegas Raiders might make sense for the Stanford product.
The Raiders had the seventh-worst passing defense in 2020 (263.3 yards per game) with their 10 interceptions tied for fifth-worst in the league.
Once again, the Jets would also make sense for Sherman given both their free cap space and how poorly they played on defense last season. New York gave up an average of 275.6 yards per game with 15 interceptions. As it tries to reboot, adding a veteran like Sherman could end up paying long-term dividends in the locker room.
The NFL draft saw 38 cornerbacks selected over the weekend with the Jets adding Pitts' Jason Pinnock in Round 5 and Kentucky's Brandin Echols in Round 6. Sherman may be as capable a defensive mentor in the league and would provide tremendous value there.
Then again, he's yet to play for a team outside the NFC West and may not be looking to change things up now.
Salary-cap information via Spotrac.