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Falcons Ex Julio Jones 1st Season with Tennessee Titans a Dud

Julio Jones struggled in his first season away from the Atlanta Falcons.

As it turns out, Julio Jones was not the missing piece for the Tennessee Titans to win the Super Bowl. 

Despite earning the top seed in the AFC, the Titans are really no closer to a championship than they were a year ago. Sure, Tennessee played on divisional weekend this year, but that was simply due to having a bye. 

For the second straight year, Tennessee lost its first playoff game of the postseason at home.

Julio Jones waves goodbye as the Tennessee Titans lose in the Playoffs
Julio Jones Former Atlanta Falcon
julio atl clutch

Jones' stat line in the 16-13 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC Divisional round Saturday were respectable. He led Tennessee with six catches and posted 62 yards. Only AJ Brown had more receiving yards for the Titans, and no Tennessee pass catcher outside of the team's Jones-Brown dynamic duo had more than 13 receiving yards in Saturday's game.

But as vital as he was Saturday, Jones simply isn't dynamic enough anymore. He dealt with numerous injuries in his final couple seasons with the Falcons and missed seven more games in 2021.

When he was on the field, he failed to produce Julio Jones-like numbers. With 31 catches, 434 receiving yards and one touchdown, Jones had the worst statistical season of his career even including his 2013 campaign where he only played five games.

In the final eight weeks of the 2021 regular season, Jones had 10 receptions for 98 yards in four games. In the other four games, Jones didn't play. 

He averaged 9.8 yards per reception in those final four games. Although that's a small sample size, it was the first time in Jones' career where he averaged under 10 yards per catch in a four-game span. Even in his more productive postseason game, Jones recorded just 10.3 yards per reception.

Jones averaged 15.2 yards per catch in a decade with the Falcons.

Part of the drop in yards per catch for Jones could be credited to the Tennessee offense. Ryan Tannehill struggled with interceptions this season and threw three in the playoff loss. 

Brown also already had a rapport with Tannehill and was Tennessee's top receiver. Jones was used more as a secondary, shorter-yardage target -- not the dynamic weapon the Falcons utilized for a decade.

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Still, it's more clear than ever that the Falcons traded Jones at the right time. That doesn't change the fact it's disappointing Jones won't be "a Falcon for life." But for the future of the Falcons, the franchise optimized Jones' value, particularly when considering Jones had backed the Falcons into a corner, saying "I'm out of there" on national TV.

The Titans appeared to make out like bandits when they received Jones for a 2022 second-round selection and conditional 2023 pick. On top of that, the Falcons are paying for a portion of his salary through 2022. 

But now an offseason later, Jones isn't anywhere close to being worth two draft picks, including a second-rounder.

With holes across the roster, the Falcons should put their extra second-round choice to good use. The Titans losing Saturday means the Falcons will pick 58th in the second round with Tennessee's selection. Some very good players have gone in that draft slot over the last several years.

The Kansas City Chiefs drafted linebacker Nick Bolton at No. 58 overall last year. Bolton had 112 tackles and 11 tackles for loss as a rookie.

In 2020, the Minnesota Vikings took guard Ezra Cleveland at No. 58. He started 26 NFL games during his first two seasons, including 17 this past season.

The Seattle Seahawks drafted center Ethan Pocic with the 58th overall pick in 2017. Like Cleveland, Pocic hasn't made the Pro Bowl but has been a serviceable starter -- something the Falcons desperately need along the offensive line.

Back in 2015, the Arizona Cardinals took edge rusher Markus Golden at No. 58. Golden has three double-digit sack seasons in his career and posted 11.0 sacks in 2021. After finishing last in the NFL in sacks with 18, the Falcons could use multiple pass rushers in this draft.

They could use a wide receiver, too. Jones left a hole the Falcons have yet to replace (thanks in part to Calvin Ridley missing the season). 

But that hole would still be there if Jones remained on Atlanta's roster. At least the Falcons now have an extra second-round pick.