Julio Jones

WR Rumors: Jones, Toney, Giants, OBJ

Julio Jones trade rumors first surfaced because the Falcons identified his contract as a way to create much-needed cap space, but later reports indicated the decorated receiver requested a trade out of Atlanta in March. Traded to the Titans for a package headlined by a second-round pick, Jones described his Falcons divorce as mutual.

We discussed everything. We just made the decision,” Jones said, via D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “It was just cut and dry. There was nothing toward football; it’s business. So, you just had to accept whatever happens, happens. Like I said, it was a mutual agreement on it. We just split up.”

The 32-year-old wide receiver built a Hall of Fame resume in Georgia and, for a bit this spring, was slated to team with Calvin Ridley and Kyle Pitts. But this reality never appeared to be on the table. Jones did, in fact, request a trade in March, Ledbetter adds. The All-Pro target said his Atlanta exit did not come about because of the team’s transition from the Dan Quinn era to an Arthur Smith-led staff. The Titans agreed to take on all of Jones’ $15.3MM guaranteed 2021 salary, separating them from the rest of the trade suitors.

Here is the latest wide receiver news from around the league:

  • Odell Beckham Jr. skipped much of the Browns‘ 2019 offseason program and did not work out with Baker Mayfield during the COVID-19-marred 2020 offseason. Beckham was rehabbing an offseason surgery at that point. Despite having torn an ACL Oct. 25 of last year, OBJ joined Jarvis Landry in working out with Mayfield in Austin this week, Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal notes. Landry confirmed Beckham was running routes at Mayfield’s workouts, via Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. A lack of chemistry between Beckham and Mayfield has been evident during their 1 1/2 seasons together; extra reps should help ahead of a key season for the former Pro Bowl wide receiver. The Browns, who have seen many veterans stay away from OTAs, will convene for minicamp next week.
  • Kadarius Toney also avoided his team’s OTAs, skipping the Giants‘ pre-minicamp workouts. The first-round pick doing so surprised the team, Dan Duggan of The Athletic notes (subscription required). Toney did not sign his rookie contract until last week but had inked a waiver to protect himself in case of an injury during OTAs. Rookies often work out with their teams before signing their deals. Toney’s four-year, $13.7MM contract is fully guaranteed.
  • Shortly after the Giants selected Toney 20th overall, Joe Judge called Sterling Shepard to discuss his future with the team, per Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News. “I thought it was necessary to talk to Shep specifically because when we drafted Toney, the word in the press as he was reading those headlines was specifically he’s a slot receiver,” Judge said. “Which, look, we are not bringing in someone to play one position. I thought it was relevant at the time to contact Shep out of respect for how he is with our program to communicate that with him.” Shepard is the longest-tenured Giant, arriving during the Jerry Reese regime. Although Shepard is signed through 2023, the Giants can create more than $6MM in cap space by moving on from him next year. The sixth-year veteran is expected to play more in the slot, following Kenny Golladay‘s arrival, after working there a career-low 34% of the time in 2020.

Kyle Shanahan Addresses 49ers Passing On Julio Jones

As a string of teams dropped out of the Julio Jones sweepstakes last week, the Titans and 49ers loomed as the All-Pro receiver’s most likely destinations. The Titans ended up winning out, landing Jones for a second-round pick and swaps of later-round choices.

Although Kyle Shanahan coached Jones for two seasons in Atlanta, the San Francisco HC pointed to his team’s draft capital — heavily impacted by April’s Trey Lance trade-up — as a reason why Jones ended up in Tennessee. The 49ers discussed Jones with the Falcons but are not believed to have made a firm offer.

Everyone knows we don’t have a first-round pick,” Shanahan said of the 49ers’ 2022 draft arsenal, via 49ersWebZone.com. “But what happens when you don’t have a second-round pick and a fourth-round pick, and you lose a number of guys in free agency, which you never can for sure count on? Then you end up going into a draft, and you’ve got to get six new spots, but all you have is a third- and a fifth-round pick. It’s kind of tough to build your team that way and to consistently do it.”

The 49ers have indeed been trigger-happy with pick-for-player trades in recent years. Prior to unloading their 2022 and ’23 first-rounders to move up nine spots for Lance, the team traded third- and fourth-round picks for Emmanuel Sanders at the 2019 trade deadline and shipped third- and fifth-round picks for Trent Williams last April. They did go the other way in 2020 as well, acquiring a first-round pick for DeForest Buckner. But the Lance move ranks as one of the priciest trades in draft history. It will affect how the 49ers proceed going forward.

Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk are set to reprise their roles as the 49ers’ starting wideouts this coming season. They did not play together often in 2020. Jones will team with A.J. Brown to comprise a flashier Titans receiving duo, but tandem is unlikely to be together for too long. Jones being 32 also appears to have played a part in the 49ers not competing with the Titans for him.

Everyone knows the player [Jones] is, but it’s not as simple as that,” Shanahan said. “You’ve got to build a team. It’s not just year to year. You’ve got to build it for the future. … He’s going to definitely help Tennessee. And everyone knows how special he is, but you’ve got to think about the short-term and the long-term, and that’s why those things are so risky for everybody.”

San Francisco is on track to use lower-profile players alongside Samuel and Aiyuk. The team re-signed ex-Jones sidekick Mohamed Sanu and has veteran Travis Benjamin and former first-round pick Kevin White on its roster. Former Broncos wideout DaeSean Hamilton nearly became a 49er, in a trade that would have cost less than a Jones swap, but his ACL tear scuttled that transaction.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Julio Jones Fallout: Contract, Suitors, Titans

In a trade that will send one of the 21st century’s best players to the AFC, the Titans moved ahead of the pack in this pursuit via a firm offer. The Titans were the only serious Jones suitor, according to NBC Sports’ Peter King.

The Falcons spoke with several teams on Jones, though offers were scarce. At various points in this process, the team discussed the All-Pro wide receiver with every NFC West franchise. The Cardinals are a new entrant in this derby, but Albert Breer of SI.com notes neither they nor their NFC West rivals sent the Falcons firm offers.

The Titans initially proposed sending the Falcons a conditional third-rounder that could become a second, Breer adds, but Atlanta had Tennessee’s proposal of a second-rounder sans conditions on the table for a bit. Sunday-morning negotiations that ended with the teams agreeing to exchange later-round picks finalized the deal, according to King.

Tennessee’s willingness to absorb Jones’ $15.3MM guaranteed salary also outflanked other suitors, per Breer, who notes the Falcons were not interested in eating part of Jones’ 2021 salary in order to sweeten trade compensation. No first-round pick was offered, Breer notes, though at one point a first did come up as part of a potential pick swap.

A Jones-Falcons divorce first surfaced around draft time, and it became a deal framed around the new Falcons regime receiving cap relief. Given the salary component in these talks, that certainly is a key reason why Jones is Nashville-bound. But this separation began when Jones and the Falcons negotiated his wideout-record three-year, $66MM extension. Jones lobbied the Falcons for a new deal after the 2017 season; the Falcons refused and ended up making minor adjustments to his previous contract in 2018. The future Hall of Famer pursued the matter again in 2019. While the sides hammered out an agreement, the months-long negotiations — which ended with a Sept. 7 accord — took a toll on both parties. Jones communicated to the Falcons he wanted out in March.

Although the Ravens pursued several receivers this offseason and signed Sammy Watkins, their Jones interest ceased after the draft. Baltimore using first- and fourth-round picks on wideouts — Rashod Bateman and Tylan Wallace — ended its talks with its former division rival. Finances scuttled Seahawks involvement, King notes, adding the Patriots were also not serious players in this chase.

It sounds like the Falcons are preparing for a pricey Calvin Ridley extension. The 2018 first-round pick is now eligible for a new deal, and the Falcons are preparing for that expensive re-up, per Breer, by getting the Jones contract off their books. Though Atlanta is still eating some dead money from this trade, the team has some time on a Ridley extension. The Falcons picked up his fifth-year option in May, locking up Ridley through 2022.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Titans GM Jon Robinson On Julio Jones Trade

A truly blockbuster NFL trade went down this morning, and we’re continuing to cover all the Julio Jones fallout. Most recently, Titans GM Jon Robinson spoke to the media to address his team’s new shiny acquisition. The following nuggets come courtesy of Jim Wyatt of the team’s official site on Twitter.

Interestingly, Robinson revealed the Titans have been in pursuit of the former Falcons star for a while. Robinson said Tennessee had been going back and forth with Atlanta for a few weeks, but things really picked up yesterday.

It sounds like some financial shuffling is about to take place, as Robinson said the Titans plan to restructure a contract or contracts to fit Jones’ big deal on their books.

Robinson emphasized that he spoke to current players on the team, and they were all enthusiastic about the prospect of adding Jones. He also added that he consulted with Nick Saban, Jones’ college coach at Alabama, who spoke very highly of him.

For Titans fans wondering about other potential additions to the offense, Robinson said the team is continuing to monitor the tight end market after losing Jonnu Smith in free agency.

After letting Smith and Corey Davis walk, it initially looked like Tennessee was going to have a pretty underwhelming group of pass-catchers outside of A.J. Brown, but Ryan Tannehill can’t complain anymore.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Chiefs Weren’t In Julio Jones Mix

The Chiefs were “never truly in” the Julio Jones sweepstakes, according to Peter Schrager of NFL.com (on Twitter). Like every team in the league, the Chiefs would have loved to have him, but it just didn’t make sense financially. Instead, Jones is en route to the Titans, who landed him on Sunday morning.

[RELATED: Titans Trade For Julio Jones]

The Titans shipped a 2022 second-round pick and a 2023 fourth-round pick to the Falcons for Jones. Meanwhile, the Falcons also sent their 2023 sixth-round pick to the Titans in the swap. That’s a far cry from the Falcons’ initial ask of a first-round pick, but that was the best they could do given Jones’ age (32) and contract.

The veteran is owed a $15.3MM base salary for 2021 and still has some guaranteed dollars for 2022. That would have been tough to swing for the Chiefs, who have less than $8MM to work with heading into ’21.

Needless to say, the Chiefs are already well-set on offense with Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, and Mecole Hardman in the fold. Jones would have been one heck of a replacement for Sammy Watkins, but it would have come at a great expense.

If I could play alongside Julio Jones, that would be amazing,” Hill said recently (via FOX 4). “I used to be in high school when he was doing his thing at Alabama and I’ve been a fan ever since.”

The Chiefs have other plans for those dollars, including a 2022 extension for Orlando Brown. Meanwhile, Jones is said to be aiming for a new deal of his own.

The Ravens — who could have teamed Jones with Watkins — reached a similar conclusion, backing out of talks last week. Ditto for the Seahawks, who already traded their 2022 first-round pick for star safety Jamal Adams. The 49ers and Rams also had varying degrees of interest in the multiple-time Pro Bowler, but the Titans ultimately topped every other offer.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Falcons Trade Julio Jones To Titans

The Julio Jones saga has reached a conclusion. According to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, the Falcons have agreed to trade Jones to the Titans in exchange for a 2022 second-round pick (Twitter link). Atlanta will also get the Titans’ fourth-round pick in 2023, though it will need to send its 2023 sixth-round choice to Tennessee. Both clubs subsequently announced the trade.

Once it became clear that Jones was going to be dealt, Tennessee always seemed like one of the most logical landing spots. The club lost WR Corey Davis and TE Jonnu Smith in free agency, and while the Titans’ offense will continue to flow through running back Derrick Henry, it seemed imperative for GM Jon Robinson to add another pass catcher.

Now, Jones will team with A.J. Brown to form a potentially dynamic 1-2 punch at the wide receiver position. And the Titans will not have to give up a ton to make that a reality. Though the Falcons were said to have an offer in hand that included a first-round pick, subsequent reports expressed skepticism that Atlanta would be able to get that type of compensation unless the hypothetical first-rounder was part of a pick-swap, similar to the return that the Ravens received from the Chiefs in the Orlando Brown Jr. trade.

Jones’ age (32) and sizable contract limited the Falcons’ leverage, as did the fact that Atlanta’s dire cap situation — the club had $446K in cap space before the trade and has yet to sign its draft picks — essentially compelled the team to rid itself of Jones’ salary. Plus, the seven-time Pro Bowler is coming off an injury-marred 2020 campaign in which he appeared in only nine games.

However, the Falcons were able to convince the Titans to assume the entirety of Jones’ contract. As Albert Breer of SI.com tweets, Atlanta is not absorbing any of Jones’ $15.3MM base salary for 2021, so Robinson will have some work to do to get Jones on the books. That could include a new contract for the newest Titan, which was rumored as a possibility last week. Indeed, Paul Kuharsky of PaulKuharsky.com reports that Jones and the Titans are presently discussing contract alterations (Twitter link).

Robinson could also approach quarterback Ryan Tannehill about a restructure. We heard just two days ago that Tannehill and the team had not discussed such a possibility, but it seems that the QB would be receptive to a reworked contract that converts some of his base salary into a signing bonus, especially since it would help facilitate Jones’ arrival.

Assuming he’s fully healthy, Jones should fit nicely into the Titans’ play-action-heavy offense. As Brown’s primary foil, he could thrive on in-breaking routes, and he still has enough straight-line speed to keep defenses honest. His presence makes Tennessee’s aerial attack a formidable one, though the club will have to demonstrate a marked improvement on the defensive side of the ball to have a legitimate chance at a title.

For the Falcons, this move represents the end of an era. One of the greatest receivers of his generation, Jones now holds franchise records in receptions (848) and receiving yards (12,896), and his 60 receiving TDs trail only Roddy White‘s 63. Those receiving yards currently rank 20th on the NFL’s all-time list, but Jones could catapult into the top-5 with several solid seasons in Tennessee.

Atlanta opted against drafting a successor for aging QB Matt Ryan, instead using its No. 4 selection on Florida TE Kyle Pitts, presumably in the hopes of making one final run at glory with Ryan under center. Between Pitts and Calvin Ridley, Ryan will still have several quality receiving options at his disposal, but losing Jones will put a major damper on any hopes the Falcons had for competing in 2021.

Dianna Russini of ESPN.com first reported that the Falcons and Titans were expected to finalize a trade that would send Jones to Tennessee within the next 24-48 hours (Twitter link). Adam Schefter of ESPN.com added (via Twitter) that the two clubs were still discussing whether the trade package would include a second- and fifth-rounder going back to Atlanta, or if the Falcons would get a second-rounder and swap other picks with the Titans.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Seahawks Not Serious Julio Jones Suitors?

The Seahawks entered the draft with one of the NFL’s best wide receiver tandems, and they added to their Tyler LockettD.K. Metcalf crew by taking D’Wayne Eskridge in the second round. But Seattle surfaced as a Julio Jones suitor last week, joining a few other teams. That pursuit appears to be thinning, however.

Due to a few factors, the Seahawks do not appear to be a top-tier Jones suitor. Their discussions of a potential trade for the All-Pro wideout stemmed more from due diligence than serious interest, Brady Henderson of ESPN.com notes. The past several days have seen this race dwindle to the point it may be a one-on-one showdown — between the 49ers and Titans — though there is always the possibility a stealth team looms.

[RELATED: Rams Out On Julio Jones?]

In addition to having already traded their 2022 first-round pick (in the Jamal Adams swap), the Seahawks are toward the bottom in cap space — at just more than $7MM. For the team to trade for Jones, it would likely need the Falcons to pick up part of his $15.3MM salary, Henderson tweets. Thus far, however, the Falcons have not shown a desire to do so. They remain on the hunt for a first-round pick, though a second-rounder may now be acceptable. While the Seahawks have not been shy about including high picks in trades under their Pete CarrollJohn Schneider regime — as the deals for Percy Harvin, Jimmy Graham and Adams have shown — money complicates this situation.

Restructuring Russell Wilson or Bobby Wagner‘s contract would free up cap space for the Seahawks, but the team does not appear eager to go that route. Jones has more than $38MM remaining on his through-2023 contract, but the 32-year-old superstar may well want yet another new deal after being dealt. The Falcons gave its seven-time Pro Bowl pass catcher a wideout-record three-year, $66MM pact in 2019. Atlanta’s new regime views that contract as one that can be moved to help the team’s cap situation.

Both the Rams and Ravens have stepped back on Jones, and it does not sound like the Patriots are eager to part with a key trade chip for the 10-year veteran. Like the Seahawks, each team made big moves at receiver this offseason. In addition to using their top 2021 pick on Eskridge, the Seahawks gave Lockett a four-year, $69MM extension. Jones could work alongside Metcalf and Lockett, with the latter playing in the slot, while Eskridge develops. But at this point, it looks like the Seahawks will sit out the Jones sweepstakes.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Julio Jones Wants To Play With “Big-Armed QB”

Another day, another update on Julio Jones. This time, we’re learning more about what Jones is seeking from a potential suitor. ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reports (via Twitter) that while the wideout naturally wants to play with a contender, he also wants to play with a “big-armed QB that can deliver the deep ball.”

Jones has established himself as one of the most prolific deep threats in recent history, finishing with more than 1,300 receiving yards for six-straight seasons between 2014 and 2019. The wideout was limited to only nine games and 771 receiving yards in 2020, but his yards per reception were still on par with his career marks.

We learned this past week that the Ravens and Rams are probably out of the Jones sweepstakes, leaving the Seahawks, Titans, Patriots, and 49ers among the (reported) remaining suitors. Would the likes of Russell Wilson, Ryan Tannehill, Cam Newton/Mac Jones, and/or Trey Lance/Jimmy Garoppolo qualify as “big-armed” QBs? It’s definitely hard to make an argument for some of those guys.

One of the Falcons’ main reasons for considering a Jones trade is because of the wideout’s hefty salary (paired with the team’s current cap issues). The team still hasn’t inked any of their rookies (including fourth-overall pick Kyle Pitts) to contracts, but Fowler tweets that several of the agents of these rookies are aware that the team is in a bit of a holding pattern. The team is currently sitting with only $446K in cap space.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Ravens “Done” With Julio Jones Trade Talks

It sounds like we can cross another Julio Jones suitor off the list. During an appearance on ESPN’s Get Up, Kimberley A. Martin reported that the Ravens are “done” with negotiations and are not in the market for the wide receiver (via Twitter). Martin offered a similar sentiment about the Rams, confirming a report from earlier this week.

The Ravens have been connected to a host of big-name receivers this offseason, so they were naturally connected to Jones when he publicly landed on the trade block. In fact, it was only the other day that we learned that the organization was willing to get involved in negotiations with the Falcons if the price was right.

There’s no denying the Ravens could use another top wideout. While quarterback Lamar Jackson‘s game doesn’t necessarily revolve around his arm, there’s no denying that his numbers took a step back in 2020. After throwing for 3,127 yards and 36 touchdowns during his MVP campaign in 2019, the 24-year-old threw for only 2,757 yards and 26 touchdowns (along with a career-high nine interceptions) this past season.

To the front office’s credit, they did do some work to improve their receiving corps this offseason. They drafted Minnesota’s Rashod Bateman in the first round, pairing him with 2019 first-rounder Marquise Brown atop the depth chart. The organization also signed veteran Sammy Watkins, and he’ll provide some experienced depth in front of the likes of Miles Boykin, James Proche, and Devin Duvernay. While the depth chart has obviously been improved, a player of Jones’ caliber could still take the team to new levels.

Meanwhile in Atlanta, reporters had a chance to ask Falcons coach Arthur Smith about Jones’ trade request (and his anticipated absence from mandatory minicamp).

“We have conversations all the time with all our players,” Smith said (via Adam Maya of NFL.com). “There’s good communication going back and forth through multiple avenues, so we’ll see what happens next week, where we’re at, you know? I can answer that for you next week.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Would Falcons Take Second-Round Pick For Julio Jones?

By all accounts, the Falcons are seeking a first-round pick in exchange for Julio Jones. But, in reality, they’d accept a second-round choice for the All-Pro wide receiver, a source tells Peter King of The MMQB

[RELATED: Jones May Want New Deal]

That would certainly help to facilitate a trade. Jones, 32, is scheduled to make $38MM over the next three years. Meanwhile, the Falcons star could demand a new deal (read: more guaranteed money). Between his age, injuries, and the possibility of having to dish out even more money, it’s hard to imagine anyone sacrificing a Round 1 choice.

Reportedly, one club did offer a first-round pick for Jones, but King is skeptical. Meanwhile, some of the teams tied to Jones do not own their 2022 first-round pick. Instead, as King’s source indicates, the Falcons could be okay with a 2022 second-rounder. In theory, the Falcons can drag things out over the summer, but it’s hard to imagine even a ’23 or ’24 first-round pick being offered.

Jones could be traded as soon as Wednesday, when the Falcons (and other clubs) can divide dead money between the 2021 and 2022 seasons. The Seahawks have recently entered the sweepstakes, but the Titans and 49ers appear to be his most likely destinations. The Niners, led by Jones’ former offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, would make lots of sense. When they were together in 2015 and 2016, Jones went off for 3,280 yards from scrimmage with 14 touchdowns.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.