On the surface, it's easy to see how the 49ers would be an ideal trade partner for the Atlanta Falcons to offload Julio Jones' contract onto.
The Athletic's Jeff Schultz reported Thursday that the Falcons would like to find a way to trade Jones as it would help alleviate some of the cap issues that currently have them unable to sign their draft class, including No. 4 overall pick Kyle Pitts.
After a strong offseason of contract maneuvering, the 49ers currently have $17.6 million available in cap space, per Over The Cap, which would give them enough room to absorb Jones' $15.3 million in base salary. The 49ers are primed to jump back into Super Bowl contention and adding a player of Jones' talent would make coach Kyle Shanahan's offense nearly impossible to stop.
But a 49ers trade for Jones wouldn't be that simple.
As my colleague, Matt Maiocco noted, unused cap money carries over from one year to the next and the 49ers would like to save as much of the near $18 million as possible to go toward future contracts for Nick Bosa, Deebo Samuel and Mike McGlinchey. Acquiring Jones' contract would almost wipe out that savings and force them to do some cap gymnastics with said extensions in the future.
There is also the issue of compensation the Falcons would require. Schultz notes that the Falcons, who would have to trade Jones post-June 1 to save $15.3 million in space, would require a quality draft pick in return for the star receiver.
The 49ers just traded away their first-round picks in 2022 and 2023 to move up to select Trey Lance at No. 3 overall, so they almost certainly won't want to part with their first-round pick in 2024. Plus, given Jones' injury issues of late and his age (32), it's unlikely the Falcons will find a team willing to give them a first-round pick in return. Even a second-round pick might be something the 49ers are unwilling to part with.
That plays into the next part of the equation as two sources told Schultz that teams could ask the Falcons to eat some of Jones' contract, which isn't a common ask in the NFL.
It's difficult to see the Falcons, who are trying to dig themselves out of cap hell, agreeing to eat some of Jones' money without getting good draft compensation in return. And it's almost a certainty that the 49ers, eyeing their upcoming situation, would want the Falcons to do so. Is a likely back-end of the second-round pick enough for the Falcons to part with Jones, who still is an elite receiver when healthy, and pay part of his contract?
That seems unlikely.
Shanahan's affinity for Jones is well known, and the 49ers almost certainly will inquire about the price to acquire the 32-year-old receiver.
But given their draft capital status and upcoming contracts, it would be a tough deal to maneuver.