Julio Jones is now with the Titans and the Atlanta Falcons need a No. 2 weapon. Could Patriots disgruntled wide receiver N'Keal Harry be the answer?
According to Jamal Toonson, Harry's agent, the former first-round target is wanting a trade just two years after being selected. When drafted out of Arizona State, the plan was for him to become a No. 1 receiver in Foxborough.
That hasn't happened due to injury and lack of production. He's recorded a combined 45 catches for 414 yards and four touchdowns. With New England's additions of Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne, Harry is expected to be working with the second-team offense.
"N'Keal understands a key ingredient to production is opportunity. He will continue to work hard to develop and refine his craft after missing a large portion of his rookie year to injury," Toonson said in a statement. "His draft-day expectations for his NFL career have not changed. We are confident success is just around the corner for him and will aggressively pursue it."
Harry, 23, still would have three years left on his rookie deal, one of which is an option that won't need to be picked up until spring of 2023. The Falcons, who currently have just over $8 million in cap space, could give him a full season and evaluate his status come next spring.
Another key factor on why this deal could make sense for Atlanta is the addition of new head coach Arthur Smith. During his time with the Titans, Smith was best known for revitalizing the career of Ryan Tannehill under center.
That wasn't all he did. He also implemented plays that would focus on fixing big-bodied receivers like Corey Davis and flex tight end Jonnu Smith. In 2020, both players posted career numbers in receptions and receiving yards before grabbing long-term deals.
Davis posted 65 catches for 984 yards and five touchdowns as the No. 2 to A.J. Brown. Smith, who was a red zone threat, recorded 48 catches for 448 yards while finishing second on the team with eight scores.
Atlanta traded Jones away not just due to his massive contract, but also the emergence of fourth-year star Calvin Ridley. With the 32-year-old out for nine games last year, Ridley showed he was more than a "Robin" to Jones' "Batman" persona.
Overall, he and Matt Ryan connected for 90 receptions, 1,374 receiving yards and nine scores on a disappointing season. That was good enough for a top 10 finish in every receiving category.
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The Falcons offseason was catered to upgrade their red zone offense. Last season, Atlanta ranked 26th in red-zone scoring, only connecting on 53.4% of its drives.
Bringing on the 6-foot-4 Harry, who is best known for his physical style of play, would be a welcomed addition.
Harry also wouldn't be asked to play the No. 1 role for the Falcons, but rather a compliment to Ridley. This would be similar to Davis and Brown, both of whom made Tannehill's job in 2020 much easier on the way to the AFC South title.
Rookie tight end/receiver Kyle Pitts likely should handle reps as a flex option in the slot. Russell Gage, who posted career numbers in 2020, likely is more of a 'move the chains' type player.
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Atlanta needs a red zone threat and one who can win in open space. In the limited playing time Harry showed during his two years with New England, he's best on slants, ins, outs and bubbles that allow him to bully defenders for extra yards.
All those are ideal traits new general manager Terry Fontenot is looking for in weapons for 2021.
If the asking price is there, Harry should be on the table. Perhaps Bill Belichick would be willing to take a late Day 3 pick or two to give an unproven player a chance.
If too high, best leave it be for an unproven talent in a season that already is under enough stress for a first year coach and GM.
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