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Report: A Julio Jones trade could happen as early as next week

The 49ers may not be the only NFC West team that makes an offer

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at San Francisco 49ers Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

On Thursday morning, ESPN’s Dianna Russini reported that the Atlanta Falcons had discussed several trade offers for Julio Jones, including an offer for a future first-round pick. Russini added that the sense is a trade could go down as early as next week, which would happen post-June 1.

I read that as “we have a deal in place that includes Day 2 picks and would like someone to give us a better deal for Julio.” We’ll see if Atlanta ends up getting a first-rounder for Jones, but I have my doubts.

On NFL Network Thursday morning, Peter Schrager speculated that the 49ers wouldn’t be the only team in the NFC West who will make a run at Julio. Schrager reinforced the Arizona Cardinals and Rams going “all-in” while also mentioning Jones could go to New England and San Francisco.

The Cardinals have around $13 million in cap space while the Rams have $7 million. If you’re wondering where both teams could create cap space, teams have proven time and time again that you can manipulate the cap.

There are plenty of ways to kick the money down the road to creating immediate cap relief. The 49ers have done this with Dee Ford and Weston Richburg this year alone.

So, what would a deal where the 49ers acquire Jones look like? ESPN’s beat writers did an exercise where the Ravens, Patriots, 49ers, and Titans submitted hypothetical offers to the Falcons. Thirteen teams passed. Atlanta accepted this offer from the Niners:

2022 second-rounder and 2023 fourth-rounder.

ESPN’s Nick Wagoner acknowledged that the easiest way to make this deal work would be by moving Jimmy Garoppolo and saving $25 million.

I would have asked the Falcons to pay for some of Jones’ salary, but this is an offer the 49ers should have no issue making. I’m in the camp that believes Julio could play for at least four more years. As his athleticism deteriorates, Jones is still such an advanced route runner that he’ll still get open.

Here’s why Atlanta accepted:

A quick run through the other three offers:

Part of this is to create cap room, so the Ravens asking Atlanta to eat salary was a non-starter — unless, perhaps, the draft compensation were higher.

Jarrett Stidham doesn’t solve the future quarterback issue for the Falcons, so the Patriots’ deal is out.

The Titans’ offer is really intriguing, and I almost considered taking it. Evans had his best NFL season under Pees in 2019 (111 tackles, nine tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks), and he’d essentially be another one-year contract since Tennessee didn’t pick up his option.

The San Francisco deal was the simplest but also made the most sense. The Falcons acquire two picks that can help reshape the roster or offer Fontenot draft capital to maneuver the next two years. It gave, to me, the best return of the offers put out there. That said, this was not an easy decision, and I’d only take this deal if I felt something couldn’t get done quick with Jarrett to open up the necessary cap space. So in a close call, I’d take San Francisco’s offer. — Rothstein

Landing Julio and keeping Jimmy feels like a stretch, especially when you consider the few million or so the team would lose by extending Warner in 2021. A contract extension for Laken Tomlison is one option, as is restructuring the deals for Arik Armstead and Jimmie Ward — I wouldn’t touch Armstead’s deal, though.

You could also convince Julio to restructure with the salary cap rising in 2022 and 2023. That way, you can fit his 2021 number under the cap, retain Jimmy, extend Fred, and everyone is happy.