Kyle Shanahan did not indicate a reunion with Julio Jones was off the table, and it now looks like the 49ers are involved in these sweepstakes.
The 49ers are the team coming up most regarding Jones around the league, according to ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler, who indicated during a SportsCenter appearance San Francisco is in the mix for the seven-time Pro Bowler — to some degree. While the 49ers would not be able to match the reported offer of a first-round pick, they do have a strong roster equipped to contend in the NFC this season. A healthy Jones would certainly help the team do so.
The Trey Lance trade stripped the 49ers of their 2022 and ’23 first-round picks, so building a competitive offer will be more challenging — if a first-round pick is indeed on the table for Jones. The Falcons are still holding out hope for a big offer, with Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk noting the team’s asking price is viewed as “outlandish” in league circles as of Saturday. Four days remain until a Jones trade can realistically take place, and a few teams remain in this somewhat blurry picture.
Tennessee emerged as the first rumored landing spot, and Fowler adds Baltimore could join the fray if the asking price is right. The Ravens have been connected to a host of big-name receivers this offseason, and while a few of them declined free agency offers, Jones’ attitude regarding their run-heavy offense would not matter in a trade for a player with a no-trade clause. The Rams, despite their crowded receiver room, also popped up in Fowler’s report. Los Angeles and Baltimore have done plenty to add at receiver this year; each franchise used its first draft pick to address the position and each signed a veteran (DeSean Jackson and Sammy Watkins, respectively). The Rams are often in the mix for high-profile trade targets, but they would not seem a fit. They have Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp signed to lucrative long-term deals.
Conversely, the 49ers’ top two receivers — Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk — are on rookie contracts. San Francisco has avoided splashy receiver signings since their 2017 Pierre Garcon deal did not work out, but Shanahan did sign off on sending third- and fourth-round picks for Emmanuel Sanders in 2019. That trade made a difference in the 49ers reaching Super Bowl LIV. Jones, 32, enjoyed his most productive season — a 136-catch, 1,871-yard 2015 showing — during Shanahan’s two-year Atlanta OC stay and would be in a better position than most late-summer arrivals due to his experience in the well-regarded play-caller’s offense.
The Falcons are still asking interested teams to pay all of Jones’ $15.3MM 2021 salary — a tough sell for most, given the limited cap space around the league — and $2MM in 2022 guaranteed pay, Florio adds. Jones is due base salaries of $11.5MM in 2022 and ’23. The 49ers hold more than $17MM in cap space, which ranks in the top 10. The Patriots have come up as Jones suitors as well, but they may be cooling on this prospect.
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