The Atlanta Falcons' new general manager Terry Fontenot has let it be known that he will "answer calls on any player." The Falcons are open for business as the first-year GM works to rebuild an aging and bloated roster with very little salary-cap space.
Cap hell often forces teams into confronting situations with players they'd otherwise not even entertain. One of those unthinkable players, and a guy synonymous with Atlanta, is wide receiver Julio Jones.
A seven-time Pro Bowler, Jones is coming off his 10th NFL season, finishing with his most disappointing statistical body of work since his injury-decimated third year. The former Alabama star drafted with the No. 6 overall pick back in 2011 only appeared in nine games (nine starts) finishing with 51 receptions for 771 yards and three touchdowns.
Set to earn a $15.3 million guaranteed salary in 2021, the aging veteran has become expendable in Atlanta. Rumors have flown about Jones being dealt after The Athletic's Jeff Schultz reported that Atlanta would like to trade him.
Recently, the Indianapolis Colts were connected to the situation by ESPN's Michael Rothstein.
Listed among three other teams, the Colts were tapped as a prime landing spot for Jones, if indeed the Falcons opt to trade him.
Indianapolis: The Colts have the cap room (just over $21.5 million) and a quarterback in Carson Wentz who could use a high-level receiver. Other than T.Y. Hilton, the Colts’ receivers are long on potential and lacking in true production. Hilton’s production has waned, too, including just 56 catches for 762 yards and five touchdowns last year. Not bad numbers, but the addition of Jones to Hilton would be a win for Wentz and a team seemingly in a win-now mode after making the playoffs in two of the last three years. Plus, general manager Chris Ballard has been bold in his trades before – between the Wentz deal this year and trading for DeForest Buckner a
Rothstein isn't wrong about the receiving corps in Indy. With Frank Reich hoping to resurrect the career of the transplanted Wentz, acquiring a bonafide All-Pro wideout would not only upgrade the room but provide the reeling quarterback with a reliable, and still dynamic (when healthy), target.
The Colts have the cap space to accommodate Jones' contract but the question of actually maneuvering to acquire the five-time All-Pro would come down to cost. GM Chris Ballard is known to be quite stingy when it comes to relinquishing draft capital, the Wentz trade notwithstanding.
But if anything might open the door to a possible Jones-to-Indy trade, it would be the fact that he's entering his age-32 season. No. 1 wideouts who've been traded in the recent past — like Odell Beckham, Jr., DeAndre Hopkins, and Stefon Diggs — all commanded a serious haul because of their respective ages.
None were older than 27. If the Falcons are asking for a first-round pick to start the Jones conversation, considering his age, that's probably a hard 'no' for Ballard. Even a second-round would be a bridge too far, unless you were a team in win-now mode with a proven quarterback and believing that a proven producer at wide receiver would be the missing link to bridge the gap to a World Championship.
The Colts are a playoff-caliber team but no one expects this team to compete for a Super Bowl with Wentz under center. That could quickly change if the Colts can fully rekindle the Reich/Wentz magic of 2017. But that's a big 'if.'
However, if Jones could be had for a third-rounder (plus), the Colts would be remiss to not investigate a trade. As it stands, many insiders close to the Colts have already shot down the possibility of Jones landing in Indy but as someone who's covered the NFL for nearly a decade, I've learned to never say never.
This could end up being a 'nothing to see here' proposition but stranger things have happened.
Follow Chad on Twitter @ChadNJensen.