The Julio Jones trade winds are beginning to swirl as NFL draft week commences.
NBC Sports’ Peter King and Albert Breer of The MMQB both wrote in their respective Monday morning columns that they would not be surprised if the Atlanta Falcons dealt Jones in the coming weeks.
King included a list of potential landing spots for the superstar wide receiver. Among them: the New England Patriots.
“As for the interested team or teams, I would guess Las Vegas; Jon Gruden couldn’t resist Antonio Brown, and I doubt he could resist Julio Jones,” King wrote. “New England too, and a couple of teams with clear receiver needs — Tennessee and Baltimore. …
“One final note here, to be very clear: I am not reporting the Falcons will trade Jones, or will probably trade Jones. I am saying it would not surprise me if it happened.”
The Patriots took steps to improve their hollowed-out receiving corps earlier this offseason by signing Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne hours into free agency, but they don’t have any wideout nearly as talented and accomplished as Jones, who’s been one of the NFL’s best players at his position over the past decade.
A seven-time Pro Bowler and five-time All-Pro (two first team, three second team), Jones tallied at least 1,300 receiving yards in six consecutive seasons from 2014 to 2019 before missing a large portion of 2020 with injuries. He appeared in nine games last season, catching 51 passes for 771 yards and three touchdowns.
The 32-year-old Jones is owed salaries of $15.3 million in 2021 and $11.5 million in 2022 and 2023. As for what it might cost to acquire him, King said a future second-round draft pick “seems fair,” with Atlanta likely waiting until after June 1 to spread Jones’ dead-cap hit over two years.
“That way, Atlanta could split Jones’ cap charge between 2021 and 2022 instead of getting bashed with it all this year,” King wrote. “So if such a trade happens, I expect it could involve a future pick or picks, nothing this year.”
With Julian Edelman recently announcing his retirement, the Patriots’ receiving corps currently consists of Agholor, Bourne, Jakobi Meyers, N’Keal Harry, Gunner Olszewski, Isaiah Zuber, Kristian Wilkerson and Devin Smith. They could look to bolster that group through the 2021 NFL Draft, which kicks off this Thursday and features an especially deep pool of wideout talent.