“Oh I’m outta there, man.”
These five words spoken (possibly unknowingly? Nobody really knows) on Fox Sports’ Undisputed with Shannon Sharpe and Skip Bayless by Atlanta Falcons star WR Julio Jones has been at the center of the NFL world. There have been rumors that Jones has wanted out of Atlanta, and according to Adam Schefter, Atlanta has been looking for trades outside of the NFC for Jones. The Falcons have also been asking for a first round pick in return for Jones, which teams have balked at. Schefter said that sources from around the league believe that Atlanta won’t get a first for him.
Falcons prefer not to trade Julio Jones in the NFC, but would do so for the right price. But now, with Jones wanting out of Atlanta, they are looking for the best value in either conference. https://t.co/D59vq0x9jz— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) May 24, 2021
Jacksonville could be that team, if they wanted to be. The Jaguars control all of their first round picks through 2024, and could possibly add in one of their younger players to sweeten the pot for Atlanta to make the trade. ESPN’s Bill Barnwell thinks the trade could happen after June 1, and thinks a second round pick and Jaguars WR LaViska Shenault Jr. could do the deal:
NFL stars could be on the move next week @billbarnwell predicts the 15 likeliest trades and signings after June 1: https://t.co/P8Il7wGPKp pic.twitter.com/9bm70vjUae— ESPN+ (@ESPNPlus) May 24, 2021
Now that we have the (projected) trade details out of the way, we can examine the pros and cons of making a trade for Jones.
Julio Jones is still very good at football
I’m not sure how or when we got to this point, but it seems that people are undervaluing Julio Jones. To simply put it: Julio Jones is very good at what he does, even at 32 years old. Since 2016, Jones leads the NFL in Yards Per Route Run, and this past season, and was fourth in that metric last year, despite missing 7 games with a hamstring injury. According to Evan Silva, Jones also turned in a career year in terms of catch rate and yards per target.
#Falcons WR Julio Jones is 32 years old & missed 7 games (hamstring) last year but wow has he stayed efficient.— Evan Silva (@evansilva) May 20, 2021
No. 4 among WRs in yards per route run (2.60)
Career-high catch rate (75.0%)
Career-high yards per target (11.3)
Last 16 games:
100 catches & 1,453 yards.
Even being at the age he is, he is still in the top tier of receivers in the NFL, and commands so much attention from opposing defenses. Even when Jones is doubled he gets open with spectacular route running for his size.
just a couple of Julio's catches from his last game in 2020 in case anyone needs to see it pic.twitter.com/04SYfpfEEg— Nate Tice (@Nate_Tice) May 22, 2021
Don’t be fooled, Jones is still a top 5 receiver in the NFL, despite being 32 years old. The opportunity to get one of those guys is rare.
The Jaguars could possibly win the division in 2021
Ok, so this one is more of a projection that an examination of Jones’ talent, but I think the Jaguars are in a very good position within the AFC South. Why? Because the division sucks. The Texans won’t have their QB and are in a state of turmoil. Tennessee has to replace Corey Davis, Jonnu Smith and offensive coordinator Arthur Smith, and their defense could still be suspect in 2021. Indianapolis has a stellar defense, but Carson Wentz has to show considerable improvement in this upcoming year, which may not happen. The Jaguars possibly have the second-best QB in the division (maybe first depending on who you ask) in Trevor Lawrence, and adding Jones to an offense with DJ Chark, Marvin Jones, and James Robinson and Travis Etienne could possibly be a top flight offensive unit in the NFL, and in a division that could take a step back, now is the chance to strike.
LaViska Shenault is good, and on a rookie contract
The Jaguars, specifically new Jaguars WR Coach Sanjay Lal believes in LaViska Shenault, and quite frankly, I do too. SI Jaguars’ John Shipley talked with Lal earlier in the offseason, and Lal outlined Shenault’s role in the new Jacksonville offense. “I think we can find a nice niche for him that is more receiver-driven for sure,” Lal said. Shenault had a good rookie year last year, but with more of a focus on being a receiver he has the potential to have a breakout year. Shenault last year dealt with a revolving door at QB and very suspect usage. He only had an Average Depth of Target of 6.2 yards, and never got many opportunities to stretch the field deep, which he was good at (when they allowed him) as a Jaguar, and when he was in college at Colorado. As good as Julio Jones is, he will be making over $10 million a year until he’s 34, at which he becomes a free agent. He also will take up $23.1 million of cap space on whatever team he’s traded to, which is the largest of any WR in the NFL according to Bill Barnwell. The Jaguars currently have the most cap space in the NFL, but there are still holes on this roster. Trading for Jones would mean giving up a player like Shenault, who is good and will still keep the Jaguars in a cap-friendly situation.
31 teams in the NFL should be calling and asking about Jones, and he’ll make every team better. Atlanta needs draft picks and help everywhere on both sides of the ball, and if the Jaguars are serious about contending for divisional crowns right away, Jones would be a no-brainer to add. Throwing in a first or second rounder along with players such as Shenault or Jaguars DB CJ Henderson could be too good of a deal for Atlanta to pass up on.
However, I just don’t think it’ll happen. The Jaguars are on a different timetable than Jones, who has said he wants to go somewhere where he could win right away. The odds of the Jaguars landing Jones are slim. DraftKings Sportsbook has the Jaguars at +800 odds of landing Jones in a trade, behind the rival Colts and Titans. LaViska Shenault is good, and they have big plans for him running routes as a true WR from the slot. I think the Jaguars front office knows that there are still major holes along the roster, and while bringing in Jones gives the offense a major shot in the arm, it could handicap them in terms of team building in the future.