One of the biggest names available on the NFL trade market was finally moved last weekend. The Atlanta Falcons sent receiver Julio Jones to the Tennessee Titans in exchange for a 2022 second-round draft pick and a 2023 fourth-round selection.
The San Francisco 49ers were rumored to be one of the teams doing their homework on the 32-year-old star wideout. The MMQB’s Albert Breer reports that while the Niners did get in touch with the Falcons regarding Jones, they never made a real offer.
The Ravens discussed a Jones trade with the Falcons prior to the draft, but pulled out of the running after taking Rashod Bateman in the first round, and never got back in. The Patriots never showed real interest to Atlanta in Jones, and the Raiders (perhaps for cash reasons) weren’t in it either. The Falcons did wind up talking to all four NFC West teams about a Jones trade, but never got a real offer from any of them.
It’s not surprising to read that all four NFC West teams showed interest in Jones. The division will be among the best in the NFL once again next season, and all four squads believe they can go on a deep run.
San Francisco head coach Kyle Shanahan has an affinity for Jones after spending two seasons with him as Atlanta’s offensive coordinator. In Shanahan’s first year with the team, Jones set career-highs in receptions (136) and yards (1,871) while also adding eight touchdowns. Shanahan said he was glad the All-Pro receiver didn’t land in the division once the deal was confirmed.
Shanahan and general manager John Lynch seem to always be in on any of the big names that have become available over the past few seasons. Shanahan and Lynch admitted that they did their homework on quarterback Tom Brady following the 2019 campaign. The Niners were also reportedly interested in receiver Odell Beckham Jr. before he was traded to the Cleveland Browns. Shanahan also confirmed that he called Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur to inquire about reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers earlier in the offseason.
Giving up two draft picks for Jones would have been a difficult ask for San Francisco. The team shipped its first-round pick in 2021, a first-and-third round selection in 2022, plus its first-round pick in 2023 to the Miami Dolphins to move up to No. 3 and get quarterback Trey Lance.
The 49ers currently have a little less than $18 million available in cap space but would have had to do some serious maneuvering to fit Jones’ $15.3 million salary on their books. With big extensions for Fred Warner and Nick Bosa on the horizon, the team will need to have some money set aside for its two defensive stars.
Breer added that no team ever offered a first-round pick to the Falcons for Jones, which had been one of the rumors leading up to the deal with the Titans.
For now, it appears the Niners are set at wide receiver. Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk are at the top of the depth chart at the position, and it will be interesting to see who emerges as the third option.