"I am committed to being a Falcon for life."
Those eight words, expressed by then-Atlanta Falcons star receiver Julio Jones after signing a three-year, $66 million contract extension in Sept. 2019, proved untrue last offseason, when the five-time All-Pro was traded to the Tennessee Titans.
The time had come for the Falcons to part ways with one of its best players in franchise history, with both parties seemingly needing the change. Falcons head coach Arthur Smith dubbed the deal a "win-win," with Atlanta receiving salary cap relief and Tennessee gaining an All-Decade player.
Now, following an injury-riddled season that limited Jones to just 10 games and 31 receptions for 434 yards and one touchdown, the Falcons' 2011 first-round pick is on the free agent market as Tennessee released him in March.
Is a reunion with Atlanta in sight?
According to Bookies.com, the Falcons have the seventh-highest odds for which team Jones plays for in Week 1, with oddsmakers placing the line at +1200 and giving the pairing slightly under an eight-percent chance of happening.
The Green Bay Packers are the favorites for Jones' services, followed by the Indianapolis Colts and Dallas Cowboys.
Jones' tenure in Atlanta wasn't supposed to end the way that it did. He had a positive relationship with owner Arthur Blank, and both wanted the now-33-year-old to be a lifelong member of the organization.
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While Atlanta did need to open up cap space, Blank said that the newly hired duo of Smith and general manager Terry Fontenot wanted to keep Jones, and "did a good job trying to get him to stay here," but that Jones was ready to move on.
Further, Blank stated that he was "bothered" and "disappointed" with the manner that his relationship with Jones ended, which seemed to include Jones not speaking directly to Blank.
Beyond Jones' lack of interest in playing under Atlanta's new regime and seemingly damaged relationship with its owner, there's also the element that most of the faces on the team have changed since he played his final snap for the Falcons in Week 13 of the 2020 season.
Most notably, the QB he spent his entire career with - Matt Ryan - was shipped off to the Colts earlier this offseason. Additionally, Olamide Zaccheaus is the lone receiver left in Atlanta who Jones took snaps with.
There would still be some familiar faces, including left tackle Jake Matthews, defensive tackle Grady Jarrett, and cornerback A.J. Terrell, but for the most part, Jones would be returning to a locker room with brand new coaches and players.
Jones certainly holds an attachment to the Falcons organization. He spent 10 seasons in Atlanta and emerged as one of the greatest players to ever wear the red and black.
At 6-3, 220 pounds, Jones' size would be an excellent fit in Smith's offense, and with the Falcons now in a much-improved situation with the salary cap, it is financially feasible that Jones could return to the team.
However, Jones returning to the Falcons doesn't seem like a realistic outcome, especially when considering his change of emotions towards the franchise and that he's likely more inclined to play for a contender rather than a team in transition such as Atlanta.
Jones may not have spent his whole career with the Falcons, but he does have a chance to make a return. While the odds give it a fair chance of happening, a reunion with the team that gave him his start just doesn't seem to be in the cards.