Ten years ago, the Cleveland Browns traded down from the sixth pick in the 2011 NFL Draft with the Atlanta Falcons, who selected wide receiver Julio Jones out of Alabama. A source of consternation for some fans and media still to this day, the Browns could trade with the Falcons now to acquire Jones in what might be the cherry on top of a Super Bowl sundae.
The Falcons are shopping Jones.
"The Falcons would like to trade Julio Jones. The Falcons likely will be seeking draft-pick compensation. A first-rounder seems unlikely."
If the Browns think they are ready to go for the Super Bowl, they may be willing to give up a draft pick or two to add a player like Jones to put across from Odell Beckham.
It's a move that wouldn't be without risk as Jones is 32 years old and will be 33 at the time of the Super Bowl. Browns team doctors would have to be confident about Jones and his foot that limited him to nine games and 771 yards in 2020. That's an average of 85.7 yards per contest. That's the lowest Jones has averaged in his career since 2013.
The highest average on the Browns in 2020 was Jarvis Landry with 56 yards per game.
The Browns have high hopes that a healthy Beckham will be significantly better than he has been to this point, not entirely his fault. But no receiver in the NFL has been more bankable in terms of production than Jones.
If the Browns could just get the same 85.7 yards per contest out of Jones in 2021, that would be the best year the Browns have had out of a wide receiver since Josh Gordon in 2013.
Jones fits what the Browns want to do offensively. He offers size, speed, he can attack down the field and he would do wonders for this team's spacing. And unlike in past seasons where Beckham was opening things up for everyone else, Jones would return the favor, opening things up for Beckham.
Austin Hooper thrived in an offense with Jones and Calvin Ridley creating spacing for him in the middle of the field. The combination of Beckham and Julio would open up a ton of running room for Nick Chubb.
What team has a defense that can deal with an offense of Baker Mayfield, Beckham, Jones, Austin Hooper, David Njoku, Chubb and Kareem Hunt, plus arguably the best offensive line in the league? That's not including players like Rashard Higgins, Donovan Peoples-Jones and Anthony Schwartz.
Is that better than the Kansas City Chiefs with Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill, along with their revamped offensive line? It could be.
Would potentially giving up a second-round pick and maybe some other kind of sweetener be extremely expensive for perhaps one good season of Jones for the Browns? Absolutely.
The other consideration for the Browns is the money involved with Jones. His salary for 2021 is $15.3 million. He's under contract for 2022 and 2023 for $11.513, which is far more reasonable, but as the Falcons would be eating almost all of his guaranteed money, they could move on from him if they wanted with virtually no dead money.
Believe it or not, the Browns have the cap space to completely absorb Jones' salary without doing anything right now. It's completely impractical and goes against what they want to do in terms of planning ahead.
The Browns and general manager Andrew Berry love to keep their options open, always looking to maximize their window to compete. Giving up a premium draft pick in what the Browns are hoping is a two-contract player isn't cheap and would lock them in to a specific direction, but it could pay off with a Lombardi trophy.
The one tactic Berry has teased but has yet to employ so far in his tenure is trading for a big-time veteran. The team added Ronnie Harrison last year, still on his rookie deal, but Berry looks up to Howie Roseman of the Philadelphia Eagles, who he calls the best GM in the league. Roseman has been tremendous at trading draft picks for big-time players with hefty contracts to bolster his team. It helped them win the Super Bowl and Jones could be Berry's opportunity to follow suit.
That presents the other hurdle in this equation. The Browns would have to either significantly restructure the contract of Landry or move him.
If the Falcons want Landry, maybe that could reduce the amount of draft capital the Browns would have to give up. Otherwise, the Browns would need to trade Landry elsewhere or simply cut him. That would be a tough pill to swallow for this organization, but if they believe it would bring them a Super Bowl, it's one they might have to consider.
Jones is simply better than Landry, in addition to being a better fit in this offense. In the most productive season of Landry's entire career, 2019, Landry averaged 73.4 yards per game. In the worst season for Jones, his rookie season, he averaged 73.8 yards. His career average is 95.5. The Browns would eat the remaining $3 million in Landry's bonus money, but Landry's $12.5 million salary would cover 80 percent of the financial burden for Jones.
Everything about this depends on Jones being healthy, but it's a tantalizing proposition for a team with a quarterback in Mayfield on the cusp of greatness.
For Jones, it could be a breath of fresh air getting to go where he's the final piece of a Super Bowl puzzle, as opposed to being the centerpiece of a rebuilding team in Atlanta. For the Browns, it could mean their first championship since 1964 and the first Super Bowl in team history.