Julio Jones Trade Rumors: Ranking Fantasy Fits for Potential Destinations for Falcons Star Receiver
ATLANTA, GEORGIA – SEPTEMBER 13: Julio Jones #11 of the Atlanta Falcons warms up prior to facing the Seattle Seahawks at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on September 13, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
The Atlanta Falcons may be interested in trading seven-time Pro Bowl receiver Julio Jones ahead of the 2021 NFL Draft.
NBC Sports insider Peter King reported on Monday in his weekly “Football Morning in America” column that Atlanta may be “putting the framework of a trade together for star wideout Julio Jones.”
Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer and NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported similar rumors on Monday involving the Falcons fielding offers for Jones, which would alleviate some of their financial woes to the tune of $15.3 million against their 2021 cap. As of April 26, Atlanta has just $2.4 million in cap space (top 51) before signing any draft picks, according to Spotrac.
Any potential trade would be a post-June 1 designation, a move that would allow the Falcons to distribute Jones’ salary cap hit over 2021 and 2022. This means the Falcons’ 2021 draft picks will not be impacted, and any picks they were to receive in a trade would be 2022 picks and beyond.
Jones, 32, has enjoyed a prolific NFL career to date which includes seven Pro Bowl nominations and two first-team All-Pro nominations. The 2011 first-round pick has 848 regular-season catches for 12,896 yards and 60 touchdowns over 10 seasons and has led the league in receiving yards twice.
The former Alabama Crimson Tide receiver is coming off of his worst season since 2013. He dealt with injuries throughout the season and reeled in 51 passes for 771 yards and three touchdowns over nine games.
A trade may signal the beginning of a rebuild in Atlanta, which has the No. 4 overall pick in this year’s draft. The team may opt to select a Jones replacement, such as LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase, or opt for tight end Kyle Pitts.
The Falcons could also be fine with their current receiving corps, which would be led by Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage and opt to draft a successor for Matt Ryan with the fourth pick of the draft.
King specifically mentions four teams — the Ravens, Titans, Patriots and Raiders — in his column as potential trade partners for the Falcons. Below is how those potential destinations would rank for fantasy football.
1. Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens surprisingly did not pursue any of the high-profile receivers for quarterback Lamar Jackson during NFL free agency. It has been a glaring position of need for Baltimore, whose best receiver in 2020 was Marquise Brown. Brown caught 58 of 100 targets for 769 yards and eight touchdowns. The last time the Ravens had a receiver crest the 1,000-yard mark was Mike Wallace in 2016.
Jones would immediately have the opportunity to become the team’s unrivaled No. 1 receiver ahead of Brown, Sammy Watkins, Miles Boykin and Devin Duvernay.
2. Tennessee Titans
The Titans — who have the lowest amount of salary cap flexibility of the four teams mentioned — could use pass-catching depth after the departures of wideout Corey Davis and tight end Jonnu Smith during free agency. Receiver A.J. Brown sits atop the depth chart, followed by Josh Reynolds and Cameron Batson.
Jones’ addition could have a negative impact on Brown’s long-term value for fantasy.
3. Las Vegas Raiders
The Raiders certainly have depth at receiver, but are still lacking a true No. 1 in their offense. Sophomore wideout Henry Ruggs leads their depth chart, followed by John Brown, Hunter Renfrow, Willie Snead IV and Bryan Edwards.
Jones would immediately become the team’s No. 1 receiver in this offense. His presence could cannibalize some targets for Las Vegas’ other receivers, as well as tight end Darren Waller.
4. New England Patriots
The Patriots — who have the most cap space of the four teams mentioned — haven’t picked up a top receiver in spite of head coach and de facto general manager Bill Belichick’s free agency spending spree.
The team did add pass catchers Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourne, Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry, but none of them qualify as a No. 1-level receiver. Plus, the Patriots lost Julian Edelman to retirement.
Agholor sits atop the receiver depth chart and is coming off of his best season to date in which he reeled in 48 of 82 targets for 896 yards and eight touchdowns.
Jones’ potential fantasy value would be limited in a Cam Newton-led passing offense and an already crowded pass-catching depth chart.
Other teams with needs at wide receiver
The Lions, Eagles, Colts and Texans — although not specifically mentioned in any of the rumors above — could all use additional depth at receiver heading into the 2021 NFL Draft.