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What's The Falcons' Worst Offseason Move?

The Trade of Julio Jones Had To Be Made, But Not At That Price

Mistakes are bound to happen each offseason when it comes to free agency. Draft picks are bungled, contracts never meet expectations and players that are declining in play continue to earn to top dollar.

What was the Atlanta Falcons biggest mistake? There's one, but it had to be done.

In 2011, then-general manager Thomas Dimitroff made the bold move to trade up to the No. 6 spot for Julio Jones. For the next decade, the former Alabama wide receiver became one of the greatest pass-catchers of the 21st century while becoming the franchise's all-time leading receiver and transforming into the face of the organization.

READ MORE: Can Atlanta Falcons' A.J. Terrell Make Significant Jump in Year 2? 

But in 2020, Dimitroff was fired by midseason. New general manager Terry Fontenot had to make the difficult decision to depart with Jones due to salary-cap implications. The long-time target of Matt Ryan was traded to the Tennessee Titans along with a sixth-round pick in exchange for a 2022 second-round and 2023 fourth-round pick. 

The deal had to be made, but was the price justified?

This season, Jones will be owed $15.3 million. The next two seasons it'll be at least $11.3 million until his new deal is up. Entering June, Atlanta was one of three teams that had less than $1 million in cap space.

That math just doesn't add up for the Falcons. 

Of course, Atlanta was already set to make some difficult choices this offseason. The team restructured Matt Ryan's deal for the fourth time. Even if they were to cut ties with Deon Jones and/or Grady Jarrett, they still would walk away losers. 

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Both players are primary defensive names on a sub-par unit last season. Drafting their replacements is easier said than done — especially in a class that was weak at defensive tackle. 

But again, this is about Jones and what the team received in return for a seven-time All-Pro. 

Fontenot likely asked for more, but settled for what he could get before it was too late. Although it would have cost the Falcons some to keep Jones, a team eventually would have agreed to give up a Day 1 selection in return. 

Having two first-round picks next year would be beneficial for Fontenot and Arthur Smith to fix major needs. A young wide receiver to replace Jones could be one upgrade. Another could be fixing the NFL's worst-ranked secondary of 2020. 

READ MORE: Is Matt Ryan Still A Top 10 NFL QB?

Another need could be quarterback with Ryan reaching his 14th season. 

There's two ways to look at the trade. One is the team freed up cap space to make sure they can sign their young corps and keep them around as the building blocks of tomorrow.

The other way to look is that Jones joins the Music City franchise and Atlanta let him walk without a high-end selection next April. 

New management will get the blame, but it's old management's negligence in contracts that forced Fontenot to make the call.