49ers

Six teams who are 49ers' biggest competition for Julio trade

49ers
Julio Jones

The NFL news cycle never stops, and Julio Jones has been the center of the discourse over the last two weeks.

The two-time All-Pro receiver reportedly has requested a trade from the Atlanta Falcons and told FOX Sports 1's Shannon Sharpe he was "out of there."

Due to Kyle Shanahan's history with Jones, the 49ers have been viewed as a potential trade destination for Jones. While that's an easy connection to make, there would be a number of hurdles for the two teams to clear to cement a deal.

If the 49ers are indeed interested in acquiring Jones (why wouldn't they be?), they won't be alone in trying to pry the 32-year-old from the Falcons.

Here are five teams and one sleeper who are the biggest threats to the 49ers' potential pursuit of a Jones trade.

New England Patriots

Bill Belichick's free-agent spending spree saw him snap up two top tight ends in Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith, while also adding receiver Nelson Agholor and former 49er Kendrick Bourne. But the Patriots still lack a true No. 1 threat for Cam Newton or rookie Mac Jones to rely on.

The Patriots make the most sense of any potential destination for Jones. They have $12.5 million in effective cap space once 51 players are signed, per Over The Cap, and have the first-round pick the Falcons reportedly would like in exchange for Jones. Belichick could easily massage the Patriots' finances to open up the $3 million needed to fit in Jones' $15.3 million salary.

 

While Jones has asked for a trade, he and the Falcons still appear to be on good terms and Atlanta would like to do right by its star, so trading him to a contender also is top of mind. After a disappointing 7-9 season in 2020, Belichick is champing at the bit to prove he can without Tom Brady, and adding a dynamic receiver like Jones will give the Patriots a dimension they have been lacking for a number of years.

New England could try and get cute with a deal, perhaps by offering a second-round pick and receiver N'Keal Harry. But if the Patriots want to get the deal done, the first-round pick in 2022 should do the trick.

Indianapolis Colts

The Colts pushed a lot of their chips into the middle of the table when they acquired Carson Wentz in the offseason.

But if the plan to rebuild Wentz is going to work, the Colts need to get him a reliable receiver who can serve as a security blanket if a play breaks down. The Colts will have $12.1 million in salary-cap space, so they'd have to do a little light maneuvering to fit in Jones' $15.3 million salary. But it shouldn't be a tough ask.

General manager Chris Ballard has proven he is willing to make bold moves, and grabbing Jones would put the Colts atop the list of AFC contenders vying to knock off the Kansas City Chiefs. The Colts have the draft capital to land the deal, they'd just have to find a way to make the money work.

Los Angeles Chargers

Justin Herbert put on a show during his rookie season, and did so throwing to Keenan Allen and not a lot else.

The Bolts have their franchise quarterback and Herbert was able to push the Chiefs to overtime in his first career start. But the Chargers know the young gunslinger needs more weapons to truly have a chance against Patrick Mahomes, especially after losing Hunter Henry in the offseason. LA will have $15.9 million in salary-cap space, so the Chargers should be able to fit Jones in without having to do any sort of financial trickery.

Adding Jones would move Allen down to the No. 2 spot and give the Herbert and the Chargers one of the best receiving duos in the NFL, making them a true threat to the Chiefs in the AFC.

Cleveland Browns

There is no indication that the Browns are currently involved in the Jones talks, but there is reason to believe they should be.

After being bounced from the playoffs by the Chiefs in the AFC Divisional Round last season, the Browns are seen by many as the AFC's best chance to knock off Kansas City this season. Odell Beckham Jr. should return healthy at some point next season, and Jarvis Landry is one of the most reliable slot receivers in the NFL.

 

But that might not be enough to win a shootout with the Chiefs. The Browns will have $17.9 in salary cap space and have the draft capital the Falcons are looking for. Cleveland has made some big moves in recent years, but Jones could be the one that puts them over the top.

Baltimore Ravens

Fixing the wide receiver position has been at the top of the Ravens' to-do list. They drafted Rashod Bateman in the first round, but getting a player of Jones' caliber would be the cure-all they've been looking for.

Unfortunately, the Ravens are tight on cash ($5.9 million projected), so they would need the Falcons to eat some of Jones' 2021 salary and ask the wide receiver to alter his contract.

It seems unlikely the two sides would be able to work out a deal, as the whole point of the Falcons trading Jones is to give them a little financial room. The Ravens surely will check in on the price for Jones, but the Falcons should be able to find a better offer.

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Arizona Cardinals

I was going to put the Green Bay Packers as my sleeper team because they need to give Aaron Rodgers an olive branch, but it would be difficult for them to financially find a way to add Jones.

So, let's go with the Cardinals. Arizona is set to have around $10.6 million in effective cap, and DeAndre Hopkins has already said he'd be willing to restructure his contract if it meant adding Jones.

Jones and Hopkins are two of the five best receivers in the NFL, and giving Kyler Murray that level of talent on the outside would elevate Kliff Kingsbury's offense.

The NFC West appears to be the toughest division in the NFL, and finding a way to add Jones, while keeping him away from the 49ers, would make the Cardinals even more of a threat to make a leap in 2021 and win the division.

It would be an all-in move, but it's one the Cardinals would be willing to make if they could navigate the cap issues properly.

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