'Tis the season of speculation.
In his recent appearance (perhaps intentionally, perhaps unknowingly) on Fox Sports 1's Undisputed, Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones was asked about his future in Atlanta. Jones said he is "out of there" and now it seems like the future Hall of Famer is going to be on the move this offseason. The Kansas City Chiefs never really invested in a Sammy Watkins replacement in the 2021 offseason and adding Jones to play opposite Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce is quite an appealing idea.
However, would the move be a smart one for the Chiefs? Let's take a look at the key arguments for and against the Chiefs making yet another blockbuster trade.
Why the Chiefs should trade for Julio Jones
The first point for trading for Jones is the simple fact that he is Julio Jones. Julio has been one of the most prolific wide receivers of the 2010s. He made the 2010s All-Decade team, has two All-Pro appearances, seven Pro Bowls and has accrued over 12,500 yards in his long, illustrious career. Any team should want to add Jones. Even if he only plays up to how he's performed for one more year, the trade is probably worth it.
The second pro-trade point comes with a look at the current roster. Watkins leaving left a pretty big hole in the Chiefs' wide receiver room, one that Jones would fill well. Julio is a perfect pairing with Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. He can win down the sideline. He can play XWR and beat cornerbacks who press him. He's even underrated when it comes to underneath routes and has routinely taken slants and screens to the house. His size and route tree would fit in perfectly with what the Chiefs want to do.
Even though Julio Jones signed a three-year/ $66 million contract extension a few years ago, shockingly, his contract is very manageable long-term for whoever trades for him. Most of the guaranteed money left on Jones's contract is in his prorated signing bonus and guaranteed 2021 base salary. Atlanta is stuck with any prorated signing bonus money when he is traded, leaving only the full 2021 base salary and $2 million in 2022 base salary guaranteed. This means if a team needs to move on from Jones after this year, they could do so if they do not restructure his contract.
Why the Chiefs should not trade for Julio Jones
The scariest part about any Julio Jones trade will be his age, entering his age 32 season, as the early 30s are where most wide receivers begin to fall off. Brandon Marshall, Golden Tate, A.J. Green, Demaryius Thomas, and many more are recent wide receivers who have had considerable declines when they hit this age. For a receiver like Jones who relies on his athleticism a fair bit, will he hold up? The cliff for wide receivers has been steep, and it is entirely possible that even Jones could lose to father time. It has to be the first concern for any team trading for Julio, and probably the reason the Falcons are okay with moving on from their superstar.
While the Chiefs have over $9 million in salary cap space, the Chiefs have very few ways to generate more salary cap space right now. This makes fitting Julio's $15.2 million 2021 cap hit very difficult for the Chiefs, especially if they desire to have a cushion of around $4 million in cap space going into the year. A Tyrann Mathieu extension will not be enough, as realistically that would only create around $7 million in cap space which would be enough for Jones, but not enough for a cushion. With very few ways to make salary cap space outside a Mathieu extension, the Chiefs would have to resort to trading a player like Laurent Duvernay-Tardif or Andrew Wylie. If the Chiefs cannot execute a Mathieu extension, then a trade for Jones would need to include a reworked contract. There are a ton of hurdles for the Chiefs to make the money work.
When general manager Brett Veach starts talking about the team's desire to keep a significant number of their draft picks, it is important to take notice. The Chiefs really need draft picks going forward. The Chiefs not only need their picks because rookies are cheaper, but they also just need shots at finding new young, superstar talent. With the possibilities of Hill, Kelce, Mathieu and Jones leaving the team sooner than you may expect, the firepower will be waning and the Chiefs need the draft-pick dart-throws to find replacements. A few mid-round picks for a 32-year-old wide receiver is mortgaging a fair bit of the future for the present.
Should the Chiefs trade for Julio Jones?
The answer to whether the Chiefs should trade for Julio Jones is simple: it depends.
The answer boils down to the true cost that Atlanta is asking for Julio and whether that cost is worth the risk. Without knowing the true cost, the answer is not clear.
If the cost is a second-round pick in 2021, then the pros from above will probably slightly outweigh the cons (as long as an extension with Mathieu is reached, making the money side of the deal possible). If the cost is a second-rounder and an additional third-round pick, then the value proposition starts to fall apart due to the inherent risk of Julio being at an age where things could go south quickly.
Without the knowledge of what Atlanta wants, it is hard to say what the Chiefs should do. There are arguments for staying pat and going for it. One thing is clear: Julio Jones would be very fun in the Chiefs' offense. If the cost is fair, it is hard not to think Brett Veach would go for it. He has done so many times before.