Well, that’s the short answer anyways.
In recent weeks, rumors have been swirling around the Atlanta Falcons’ All-Pro receiver and his future in Atlanta. These all culminated, of course, with Jones himself saying, “I’m outta there”, in reference to the city he has called home since 2011. As one of just a few teams in the league with the cap space to absorb Jones’ contract, as well as a need at wide receiver, the New England Patriots have been among the teams most commonly linked to a potential Jones trade. Not to mention that in the most recent Las Vegas odds of favorites to land the star wide receiver, the Patriots were the heavy favorites. But does a trade make sense for the Pats, and what would it cost them? Let’s take a look.
First, let’s get the obvious out of the way: from a pure football perspective, adding Julio Jones would obviously make the Patriots a better team instantly. A decade into his career, he is still an elite receiver, and New England currently doesn’t have anybody even in the same conversation as him. Even in an injury shortened 2020 season, in which he only played nine games, Jones racked up 771 receiving yards. The Patriots leading receiver, Jakobi Meyers, played 14 games and still only had 729 yards. However, his 85.7 yards per game was actually the lowest since Jones’ second year in the league.
So is he on the decline, or was he hampered by injuries? To me, it doesn’t matter. Even a declining Julio is miles better than anything New England has, and if it was actually just injuries, there’s a good chance he will bounce back and be a top five wideout in the league this season. The man is still a threat to lead the league in receiving yards year in and year out when healthy. So yes, from a football perspective, trading for Jones makes all the sense in the world.
What it’s going to come down to, and what it always comes down to with Bill Belichick pulling the strings, is the price tag. Even though the Patriots have enough room to fit Jones, there is no way Belichick is going to put the entire rest of his cap space towards one player, even a player like Jones. Unless Julio is willing to restructure his contract, and significantly lower his current $15.3 million salary, there’s no way New England will even offer a trade to the Falcons. Willingness to sacrifice is one of the most important factors to playing for the Patriots, and for Jones to end up here, he would have to sacrifice before he even stepped on the field. Will he do it? If he wants to play in New England with Cam Newton (more on that later), he’ll have to.
As for what the Patriots would have to give up, that’s where it gets a little bit more interesting. Despite reports that the Falcons have received an offer of a first round pick just a few days ago, the reporting was that the Falcons weren’t going to get that high of a pick, even if that was what they were hoping for.
Have the offers actually increased, or are the Falcons lying to try to drive the price up? Assuming the price hasn’t jumped into the range of a first rounder, what could the Patriots bring to the table that would entice the Falcons? Would Jarrett Stidham and a second round pick be enough to pry Jones from Atlanta, as Mike Reiss suggested in an article on ESPN? Or could Sony Michel, who took a backseat following Damien Harris’ arrival onto the scene last year, but is a starting level running back, be paired with a third round pick to bring wide receiver help to New England?
Whatever the cost, getting Jones is a no-brainer for the Patriots. The guy is a stud, who should still have a few more years of playing at an elite level ahead of him. His presence alone, especially when paired with new Patriots tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith, would take their passing game to levels it never came close to reaching last year, even if the inconsistent Cam Newton is still under center.
Speaking of Cam Newton, Jones is apparently fond of the idea of teaming up with the former MVP. After what we saw out of Newton last year, I’m not exactly sure why, but hey, if it’s going to get Julio in the door, I’m all for it. And hopefully, whenever Mac Jones replaces Cam, either this season or next, the Alabama connection would be enough keep Julio happy. Having a stud on the perimeter like Jones would certainly ease the transition for the rookie as well, who got used to playing with insane talent at the wide receiver position in college. And as the future QB of this team, the Patriots should be doing everything they can to surround him with as much talent as possible.
If the price is right, I hope that Bill Belichick will do everything in his power to get Julio Jones to New England. If New England is serious about returning to the playoffs, there’s no excuse to not trade for a guy that is still dominant when he’s healthy, and Jones is exactly that. While progress may be made over the next few days, it’s more likely that nothing will really happen until at least June 1st. Waiting until then opens up cap space for the Falcons, and as the team doing the trading, they’re in control of the timeline. So all Patriots fans can do now is wait, hope, and refresh Adam Schefter’s twitter every once in a while.