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NFL trade rumors: Falcons receiver Julio Jones could be available, should the Patriots try to capitalize?

Related: Jimmy Garoppolo on Patriots trade rumors: ‘We never really got to cross that bridge’

Denver Broncos v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

One trade rumor that seems to be heating up lately is the Atlanta Falcons shopping one of the top wide receivers in the NFL. With the team really up against the salary cap, it needs to find room and Julio Jones gives them the best opportunity to create some flexibility and get the best draft pick return.

The reason the Falcons didn’t move Jones ahead of the draft was because trading him before June 1st would incur a $200,000 cap charge, which defeats the purpose of trading him. So, you should expect him to be playing on a different team come June 2nd.

One of the teams that has been talked about as a potential trade destination is the New England Patriots.

The Patriots likely have some level of interest beyond just kicking the tires for landing the superstar receiver in a trade. Not every year does a player of Jones’ caliber become available on the market for the team to make a move. Bill Belichick has shown a willingness in the past to get that type of player to try to acquire a final piece to put his team over the top.

He acquired Randy Moss during the 2007 draft, traded a first-round pick for Brandin Cooks in 2017, and signed Antonio Brown after he schemed his way out of Pittsburgh and Oakland in 2019. Getting Jones would not be an unprecedented move — in fact that’s the modus operandi when he believes a team is ready to compete for a Super Bowl.

Over the weekend, we heard rumors that the Patriots had “internal discussions” about acquiring Jones from the Falcons. That’s not exactly an earth-shattering rumor because any organization looking to win is going to consider the possibility of adding a player of Julio Jones’ caliber to their football team. It’s due diligence and the Patriots probably have spoken to the Falcons about the possibility of acquiring Jones because that’s just being smart.

The other rumor is that Julio Jones would like to play with Cam Newton in New England, although I think it was a situation where Jones was asked if he wanted to play in New England if traded there and he probably said yes. I wouldn’t read too much into that second rumor; I don’t think Jones is demanding that he be traded to New England.

For the Patriots, the first question is if Julio Jones is enough to make them the favorites in the AFC East and have a legitimate chance of unseating Kansas City for the AFC title. If the answer is “yes,” make the move. If the answer is “no,” don’t make the move if the cost is too prohibitive.

The biggest worry for me in acquiring Jones is if between Newton having a full offseason to work with and Mac Jones being able to quickly learn the offense that they can’t improve the quarterback play relative to last year. If neither guy can play on a starter-caliber level in 2021, then trading for Jones ends up wasting perhaps one of his last elite years with mediocre QB play and a Wild Card round playoff exit.

The biggest reason why I thought a Julio Jones trade was unlikely to begin with for New England is simply that the timing isn’t right.

The team didn’t have good quarterback play from Newton in 2021, as the Patriots’ special teams carried them in two of their seven wins (Arizona, Los Angeles Chargers). Newton will not play as poorly in 2021 as he did in 2020, as he will have a better supporting cast and more familiarity with the playbook. Barring injuries or a return of Covid-19, I see him being the team’s primary starter for all 17 games.

Given the current structure of Jones’ contract, $2 million of his 2022 salary is already guaranteed so the team is going to be making a two-year investment in him anyway if they execute the trade.

One other reason to be concerned about a possible trade is Jones’ recent history. He already is 32 years old and only played in nine games with Atlanta last year due to a hamstring injury. Medicals will be a big component in the trade, as the Patriots would be trading for a very productive, yet aging receiver who had a major soft tissue injury the previous season.

They would be hoping that it is not a sign of future trouble because any sort of injuries of that kind would certainly have the potential to slow Jones down this year and through the remainder of his stint in New England. It’s not uncommon for players of a similar age to start breaking down physically as their bodies are no longer able to keep up with the rigors of the NFL.

If the Patriots are able to pull off the trade, which probably will involve some package of players and picks in next year’s draft, Jones would give the Patriots a legitimate No. 1 receiver, though.

The Patriots have just enough salary cap space to fit Jones’ current contract on the books, although they can easily convert his salary into a signing bonus to lower his 2021 cap number. In their offense, the Patriots would roll with him at the X, Nelson Agholor at the Z, Jonnu Smith at the Y and Hunter Henry as the F. In addition, they can call upon Kendrick Bourne or Jakobi Meyers to play the slot if the team wants to exploit certain matchups. They also have James White out of the backfield. That’s a lot of weapons for Newton to throw to, so his level of play would be the limiting factor in the offense.

While imaging how much of an impact Jones might make and his presence allowing the other receivers to take advantage of more favorable matchups, the Patriots probably aren’t the only team calling to land the superstar receiver.

I imagine teams like the Tennessee Titans, Arizona Cardinals, and New York Jets could come calling for Julio Jones, looking for him to be the final piece they need to put together their ideas of unstoppable offenses. Granted, I don’t think those teams are closer to winning a title than New England — save for the Titans who seem to be that one player away the past two seasons.

Poll

Do you believe the Patriots should try to make a serious run at trading for Julio Jones?

This poll is closed

  • 18%
    Yes, at whatever the cost because I believe this team is one Julio Jones away from challenging the Chiefs for the AFC title
    (372 votes)
  • 67%
    Yes, if the team doesn’t give up 1st round value
    (1332 votes)
  • 14%
    No, adding Julio Jones does not make this team a contender
    (278 votes)
1982 votes total Vote Now