On Wednesday, we discussed whether Julio Jones becoming a 49er was a pipedream. We’ve done this dance with a handful of players — namely Odell Beckham Jr., who was a high-priced wide receiver who had an injury history but remained one of the top players at his position.
On Thursday morning, The Athletic’s Jeff Schultz wrote that the Atlanta Falcons want to trade Julio Jones. That isn’t news, as Jones has been on the hypothetical trade block all offseason. You can thank Julio’s contract for that. The Falcons currently don’t have enough cap space to sign their draft picks, as they have $412,351 in cap space.
We’re drumming this topic up once again because Shultz listed the teams who would be interested in Jones’ services. As you may have guessed, the play-caller who helped Jones have his best statistical season is one of them:
Many teams would like Jones on their roster, but not many realistically can trade for him. The Falcons’ hope is that enough teams (think: three to five) express interest to create a market. Think of 1) teams with enough cap space to absorb Jones’ $15.3 million base salary; 2) contending teams that believe he would put them over the top; 3) young teams looking to take the next step. Among the teams that could fall into these categories: Ravens, 49ers, Patriots, Colts and Chargers. One league source said the Titans also may show interest, but they also are close to the cap ceiling.
Here is the cap space for each of those teams listed, per Over the Cap:
Chargers - $20.4M
Colts - $20.4M
49ers - $17.6M
Pats - $15.9M
Ravens - $9.7M
Titans - $3.5M
Note: The 49ers figure is likely closer to $11 million when you factor in their rookie class.
I’d love to know how Baltimore and Tennesee would fit Jones under their salary cap. San Francisco and even New England could do so by extending and restructuring.
In the Niners case, a Fred Warner and Laken Tomlinson extension should give the team a few more million for this season, while restructuring Jimmie Ward could add some immediate cap relief, too.
There’s always a way to make it work. For example, Carolina had to eat some money to trade Teddy Bridgewater. Since we know Atlanta is in a tight spot, they may be forced to do the same to move Jones eventually. Schultz mentioned this in his article:
Two sources have said teams also may seek to have the Falcons eat a portion of Jones’ contract. That’s not as common in the NFL as it is baseball, but it could become more prevalent with guarantees increasing. Teams understand that the Falcons are in a difficult situation, even though Jones is a valuable commodity. It’s why Atlanta needs multiple bidders to gain some leverage.
Unless Kyle Shanahan has his mind made up to reunite with Julio, a bidding war could prevent the Niners from acquiring the star wideout. I wouldn’t go as far as saying Jones would be a luxury for the 49ers, but they have three potential 1,000-yard receivers and a host of other players who can contribute. Plus, that Shanahan guy calling the plays.
Other teams cannot say the same, which is why they’d be more desperate than San Francisco to trade for Julio. The Colts have more cap space, and they have TY Hilton, Michael Pittman, and Parris Campbell as their top three wideouts.
The Chargers have Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, and a third-round rookie wideout. The Patriots have no true No. 1 receiver, as they’re built to play through their tight ends.
Each of those three teams should be willing to give up more than the Niners as they could use Julio’s more. I doubt the Falcons would get a first-round pick for Jones, but even a second-rounder seems rich considering the price you’re paying, around $15 million.
When the Cardinals signed J.J. Watt, they gave him a ton of money, but they didn’t have to part with any draft picks. The 49ers still have a future third-round comp pick and their own third-rounder. That would be my deal for Julio. If Atlanta doesn’t like the offer, there’s no reason for the Niners to get into a bidding war.