Julio Jones tracker: how the Eagles can make the money work and land the star WR
Trade rumors have been surrounding the Falcons and Julio Jones for months now, with the 7-time Pro Bowl WR all but confirming that he wants out of Atlanta earlier today:
This is huge: Shannon Sharpe called Julio Jones live on @undisputed: Julio said he’s “out of there” when asked if he wants to stay in Atlanta. He also said he doesn’t want to go to the Cowboys. “I want to win.”— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) May 24, 2021
Holy cow. I don’t think he knew he was live. pic.twitter.com/5D8cXjclQt
Atlanta was originally in no rush to move Julio Jones, but now that he’s revealed his true intentions the team will be gauging his interest around the league:
Falcons prefer not to trade Julio Jones in the NFC, but would do so for the right price. But now, with Jones wanting out of Atlanta, they are looking for the best value in either conference. https://t.co/D59vq0x9jz— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) May 24, 2021
Julio Jones made it clear that he would prefer not to go to Dallas, so now the question becomes where does he ultimately land? Several teams could use his services; New England has been tied to Jones for some time now. It wouldn’t hurt Green Bay to make a call and attempt to mend the relationship with Aaron Rodgers. The 49ers could certainly use another receiver opposite Deebo Samuel.
The Eagles always do their due diligence when a top player becomes available and GM Howie Roseman will undoubtedly inquire about Jones. But does the two-time All-Pro make sense for the Eagles? There are a number of things to keep in mind in a potential trade scenario.
Jones has 3 years remaining on his contract and is guaranteed $15.3M in 2022. The Eagles have roughly $2.6M remaining cap space after adding Ryan Kerrigan and still need to sign their rookies to contracts. If the team is going to remotely have a chance at Jones they’d likely have to start by moving Zach Ertz and Derek Barnett then go from there.
Moving Ertz after June 1st would free up $8.5M and Barnett is set to make $10M in 2021 on his 5th-year option. The Eagles could also restructure Julio’s deal upon acquiring him. Roseman would have to work the numbers to make the deal feasible, something he’s proven to be capable of in the past.
As far as compensation in a trade, Atlanta is reportedly asking for a first-round pick for Julio Jones. Teams seem to be reluctant to part with a first-rounder for a 32-year-old WR who only played in nine games last season, and rightfully so. For the Eagles, a trade package would resemble something like this:
Falcons receive: 2022 2nd-round pick, DE Derek Barnett
Eagles receive: WR Julio Jones
The Eagles have four picks within the first two rounds of next season’s draft and can afford to sacrifice a pick for a player of Julio’s stature. The coaching staff would also have to figure how Julio would fit into the offense. They selected WR DeVonta Smith with the #10 overall pick in this year’s draft and still have untapped potential in Jalen Reagor and Travis Fulgham. Jones was also straightforward about his desire to win and the Eagles are currently retooling with rookie head coach Nick Sirianni at the helm.
Would it be counterproductive to bring in a declining receiver and take snaps away from young talent? Probably, but the Eagles could use a veteran as their oldest WR in the room is currently Greg Ward Jr. Julio Jones became the fastest player to reach 12,000 career receiving yards last season and averages the most receiving yards/game in NFL history:
- Julio Jones: 95.5
- Calvin Johnson: 86.1
- Michael Thomas: 85.0
- Odell Beckham Jr: 83.3
- DeAndre Hopkins: 79.4
Prior to last season, Julio Jones had six straight seasons of at least 80 receptions and 1,300 yards. To put that into perspective, the Eagles haven’t had a 1,000+ yard receiver since Jeremy Maclin in 2014. Just last season, Eagles’ WRs combined for 2,082 total receiving yards, the third-fewest in the league behind New England, and a run-heavy Baltimore team.
If the Eagles are looking to accelerate this rebuild they could do far worse than bring in Julio Jones for their first-year starting quarterback. Any trade involving Jones wouldn’t culminate until after June 1st. For what it’s worth, #11 is still available as a jersey number.