Any time an NFL superstar hits the trade market, 31 fan bases will clamor for their general manager to pick up the phone and make a call. The 12s are not immune from this phenomenon, and a superstar has reportedly just hit the open market. On Monday, reports revealed the Falcons are taking calls on their All-Pro wide receiver, Julio Jones, and a deal after June 1 sounds increasingly likely.
The Falcons are hard-pressed against the salary cap and by trading or releasing Jones after June 1, they can instantly free up $15 million from their 2021 cap number. Atlanta appears ready to hit the reset button on its franchise, currently owning the No. 4 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, and with whispers this might be quarterback Matt Ryan's final year in the 'Big A.' The team has a new head coach in Arthur Smith, and their Super Bowl window is now a distant memory.
Jones turned 32 years old in February and is coming off an injury-filled year that helped produce his worst season since 2013. In nine games, Jones snagged 51 passes for 771 yards and three touchdowns. Make no mistake; Jones can still play at a high level, leading the league in receiving yards in 2018 and following that up with another 1,300-yard campaign in 2019. But Jones has constantly battled to stay on the field as of late and is no stranger to the injury report, a sign that his body is beginning to break down. With Calvin Ridley serving as the heir apparent, now seems like a good time for the Falcons to part ways.
This brings us to the Seahawks, who do have a need for a receiver and have never been afraid to go big game hunting on the trade market. They've acquired players like Jadeveon Clowney, Jamal Adams, Carlos Dunlap, Duane Brown, and Jimmy Graham through that avenue in recent years. Additionally, the Seahawks are often criticized for not giving quarterback Russell Wilson enough weaponry, despite the presence of DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, and Chris Carson.
But once you dig below the surface level on a potential trade for Jones, the issues start to become apparent. The Seahawks would be on the hook for Jones's $15.5 million base salaries in 2021, and currently have just $7 million and change to play with. They'd need to borrow more money against the 2022 cap, and while they could easily do so, they appear reluctant to restructure contracts like Wilson's or Bobby Wagner's to make it happen. The Seahawks are also presumably working on long-term extensions with Jamal Adams and Quandre Diggs, which likely take priority over any outside addition.
Even if the Seahawks could afford to pay Jones (again, they could make it work), the issue of acquisition cost remains. Jones's salary, age, and injury concerns will likely drive his cost down some, but the Seahawks are already without a 2022 first-round selection, making it increasingly difficult for the team to part ways with a second-round pick. The Seahawks are currently slated to have seven draft selections in 2022, but we do not yet know what type of offers the Falcons are getting on their star wideout.
Jones can undoubtedly still play, but his acquisition isn't without risk. Head coach Pete Carroll respects Jones and would undoubtedly be giddy about the idea of lining up the All-Pro with Metcalf and Lockett on the same field. However, for the Seahawks to come into play here, the price would likely need to be similar to that of the Clowney trade, in which the Texans paid down Clowney's salary to Seattle for a third-round pick and some spare parts. But Jones doesn't have the leverage Clowney did, and Atlanta is sure to have multiple suitors for him.
Sure, dreaming about Wilson throwing the ball to Jones is a lot of fun and would make the Seahawks an even more dangerous team. But the cost to acquire and pay for an older receiver who has battled foot injuries over the past few seasons is likely going to be too high. You can never say 'never' with general manager John Schneider, but Jones will likely be catching passes for some other team in 2021.