Julio Jones’ thoughts on the Falcons and Cowboys. pic.twitter.com/Y9tQDnw2dO— shannon sharpe (@ShannonSharpe) May 24, 2021
Fox Sports 1’s Shannon Sharpe dialed Jones while on air Monday and asked Jones if he’d like to be traded to the Dallas Cowboys, or remain in Atlanta.
“I’m out of there, man,” Jones said.
When asked by Sharpe where he wanted to be traded, Jones replied “right now, I want to win.”
It is unclear whether Jones was aware he was on live television.
Could Jones’ outburst help move the situation forward — and result in the 10-year veteran becoming a member of the Kansas City Chiefs?
It’s been known for a while the Falcons would consider trading Jones — who carries a 2021 cap hit just over $23 million, per Spotrac — in order to create some salary-cap space. And their need for cap space is critical. The team currently has just $1.6 million available (per Spotrac). After taking the fourth, 40th, 68th and 108th picks in the draft, the Falcons will need something around $6.8 million to sign those players to their rookie contracts. (In contrast, the Chiefs needed just over $300,000 in cap space to sign their 58th and 63rd picks).
For the Falcons, that situation was bad enough. Other teams certainly know Atlanta doesn’t have a lot of choices to solve its salary-cap problems. And now with his statement to Sharpe, Jones hasn’t made things any easier for the team — as Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio noted.
When a team considers trading a player, the best leverage often comes from the team credibly saying, “Sorry, we’re not trading him.”
In fact, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Jones’ statement has now eliminated any doubt that Jones is on the trading block — as if there had been actually been any.
Clarity on the situation between the #Falcons and WR Julio Jones: The All-Pro requested a trade from the organization a few months ago, sources say, and the team then agreed to listen to offers. That’s how it began and why it continues.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) May 24, 2021
But what would the Falcons want in exchange? ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that it’s likely more than other teams might be willing to offer.
Atlanta has asked teams that have inquired about Julio Jones for a first-round draft pick in return, per sources. Others around the league don’t believe the Falcons ultimately will get a first for the perennial Pro-Bowl wide receiver.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) May 24, 2021
NBC Sports’ Peter King said he already knew of lower offers.
I don't know. Which team is most willing to offer a 2? I hear one team wanted him for a conditional 3 (turns into a 2 if Jones plays 10 games) and Falcons balked. My guess, and it's only that, is that Vegas and New England would be interested. https://t.co/rSjNWjUWcU— Peter King (@peter_king) May 24, 2021
Would the Chiefs — who have already given up a 2022 fifth-round pick in the trade for Orlando Brown, Jr. — be willing to give up another pick for a receiver who is already 32 years old?
And it’s not the only hurdle Kansas City would have to overcome. Spotrac laid out Jones’ contract numbers.
Trading Julio Jones after June 1st#Falcons Dead Cap— Spotrac (@spotrac) April 26, 2021
2021: $7.75M ($15.3M saved)
2022: $15.5M ($3.7M saved)
New Team Acquires
2021: $15.3M (GTD)
2022: $11.5M ($2M GTD)
2023: $11.5Mhttps://t.co/FpLHvrSCtc pic.twitter.com/ge6cPUCkbh
As you can see, Jones’s current contract runs through 2023 — when he will be 34 years old. And his $15.3 million base salary for 2021 is already guaranteed. Since we now estimate the Chiefs have only $8.0 million in cap space, this could be a deal-breaker all by itself.
As part of the trade, could the Chiefs renegotiate Jones’ deal in order to secure a more-friendly cap number for 2021? Sure.
But without adding a fourth year to the contract — in the year Jones will be 37 — that will be tough to do. That said, if Kansas City is motivated to make a deal, it has certainly shown itself to be capable of thinking outside of the box — and the more desperate the Falcons become, they might be willing to absorb some of Jones’ 2021 salary. In fact, Florio mentioned that possibility.
If Atlanta eventually can get two or more serious suitors to the table, the Falcons have a better chance to get closer to the second-round pick they want.
Again, one major factor will be whether and to what extent the Falcons are willing to pay part of his $15.3 million salary for 2021, which is guaranteed for skill, injury, and cap.
It’s nevertheless looking more and more likely that a trade will occur, if the Falcons and a new team can find a sweet spot of trade compensation and shared salary obligation.
Those ideas, however, depend on the Chiefs being motivated to make this trade. While the team is definitely interested in finding a receiver who could replace Sammy Watkins’ role in their offense, it now has 13 wideouts (aside from Tyreek Hill) on the roster. That looks more like the action of a team that wants to develop such a player — not trade for one.
Still... there are plenty of Chiefs fans (and media members) who continue to say Kansas City should make a deal for Jones. And it could happen.
But given what we know... we can’t recommend holding your breath for it.
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