Somehow the Patriots spent a couple hundred million dollars in free agency this offseason and didn’t wind up with a bona fide No. 1 wide receiver.
Now there’s a chance one could become available via trade.
The Atlanta Falcons apparently are open to the idea of trading Julio Jones, based on reports Monday morning from SI Senior NFL Reporter Albert Breer and Peter King of NBC Sports.
Breer wrote: “it wouldn’t shock me if Julio Jones gets traded at some point this offseason." And King also wrote it would “not surprise” him if Atlanta got together a “framework” of a trade, which would have to be held from becoming official until June 2 so the Falcons could split Jones' cap charge between the 2021 and 2022 seasons.
Of course, when considering teams that would want in on a Jones deal, the Patriots were mentioned by pretty much every pundit.
What would a trade for Jones look like and how interested should the Pats be in Jones? Let’s take a look:
Jones turned 32 this year and he was limited to nine games by a nagging hamstring injury in 2020. Still, he caught 51 passes for 771 yards and three touchdowns in those games.
In 2019, Jones was fifth in the NFL with 99 catches and second with 1,394 yards. He led the NFL with 1,677 yards receiving in 2018. He’s been a first-team All-Pro twice and a Pro Bowl selection seven times. This is the type of receiver, assuming he’s not on a downward trend, who not only makes mediocre quarterbacking better but also takes the heat off returning receiver Jakobi Meyers and free-agent imports Kendrick Bourne and Nelson Agholor to produce like a number 1.
N’Keal Harry also would become more expendable or be given the luxury of developing as a lesser-used option.
Jones has three years left on his deal at $15.3 million this season and $11.513 million the next two. The way the Pats have been spending, what’s $15 more million to try to get back on track after a 7-9 season?
Whether Jones would be willing to keep playing at the number is another story. If he has a big year and then asks for a raise, something he did with Atlanta three years ago, that could cause trouble for the Pats cap-wise. That’s why New England would have to be careful with what they’re willing to give the Falcons.
Breer says a future first-round pick gets the deal done. King estimates it’ll take a second-rounder. That’s probably too rich for a guy coming off injury and someone who might be executing a cash grab this time next year. The Pats have all their picks in 2021 except a fifth-rounder. They might want to spend some of those picks to move up and grab a quarterback in the draft. If they’re not as hot for a quarterback as some are reporting, though, dealing their 2022 second-rounder might be worth it for one year of adding Jones to an already deep wide receiver group.
Whether Cam Newton, Jarrett Stidham or a rookie quarterback is under center this fall, the Pats are going to need plenty of targets. Jones is the type of difference-maker they’ll have to at least consider.