Will Falcons keep Julio Jones on ice while waiting for a trade partner?
The Falcons began trying to trade receiver Julio Jones more than six weeks ago. They have still found no takers, at least not for the terms that Falcons seek.
The problem continues to be that the Falcons want too much; otherwise, a deal would be done. Unless the Falcons relent in their desire for a straight first-round pick (with no draft-pick compensation flowing back to the new team along with Jones) and no obligation to pay any of his salary for 2021 or 2022, they’ll need to wait and see whether an injury to a receiver elsewhere creates a need -- or whether a team decides at some point that Jones represents the missing piece of a Super Bowl run.
Before Jones declared “I’m out of there” during a conversation that he apparently didn’t know was being broadcast by FS1, one possible approach consisted of the Falcons keeping Jones through training camp and into the regular season, with the goal of trading him before the deadline that arrives on the Tuesday after Week Eight. It’s now clear that the Falcons won’t be doing that.
Here’s another potential strategy: The Falcons and Jones could agree that he’ll be placed on ice until a market develops. Under this approach, he’d stay away from training camp, the preseason, and the regular season, with permission. He’d agree to do so. And the Falcons would wait for the best offer to come.
Some would say that another team will be willing to give up more for Jones now, when it can get a full season of performance from him. Others would say that the trades of Mohamed Sanu (second-round pick) and Emmanuel Sanders (third-round pick) from the 2019 season show that teams will loosen the vault of draft picks once they begin to develop in-season momentum and conjure visions of a Super Bowl berth.
Again, Jones would have to be on board with this strategy. If he wants to force the issue, he could show up, whether during voluntary offseason workouts or mandatory minicamp or training camp. The Falcons would be forced to let him work out and practice, risking an injury that would put them on the hook for the full amount of his 2021 salary, or pull the trigger on a trade.
Even if he’s not inclined to return to practice with the Falcons, Jones and his agent, Jimmy Sexton, could begin to jostle privately or publicly for the Falcons to take one of the offers that is on the table but deemed by owner Arthur Blank (who wants at least a second-round pick given the trades that sent Sanu to the Patriots and brought Hayden Hurst from Baltimore) to not be good enough. Then again, Jones may prefer to wait and see whether he’s landing with a true contender. The longer it takes for the process to play out, the more likely that a true contender will become the team that makes the move for Jones.
Regardless, there’s currently no deal that the Falcons regard as good enough. If there were, he’d be traded. Time will tell whether they’ll blink, or whether one of the interested teams will.