Originally posted on Sportsnaut | By Matt Fitzgerald | Last updated 5/25/21
The Atlanta Falcons are trying to distance themselves from all the Julio Jones trade rumors, but new head coach Arthur Smith had to face the music on Tuesday and wasn’t at all comfortable with it.
Speaking to reporters, Smith fumbled a bit as he dealt with his first serious bout of adversity since taking the job, refusing to directly comment on Jones’ situation, per NFL.com’s Jeremy Bergman:
“We have great appreciation and respect for Julio, what he’s done here, and for all the players that have been a part of this Falcons organization. Look, this is a tough business. We all signed up for it, coaches and players, we understand that. But everything we do here is going to be well-thought-out and it’s going to be handled behind the scenes with dignity with the players. As long as I’m here, that’s the way it’ll be done.”
Jones recently said on live TV that he wasn’t coming back to the Falcons, and news has surfaced that he’d requested a trade months ago, hoping to play for a team that’s ready to win. Atlanta is transitioning to a new coaching staff and front office, so despite the presence of quarterback Matt Ryan, lots of work still needs to be done.
Now that it’s a matter of “when” not “if” Jones will be traded, let’s take an updated look at which suitors best fit his desire to win and have the means and ammunition to cut a deal with the Falcons.
5. Indianapolis Colts
The Colts should be doing all they can to ensure that Carson Wentz succeeds. One big reason why this might not work out is because Jones may lack faith that Wentz can be the QB he finishes his career with on a high note.
Wentz was horrendous in 2020 with the Philadelphia Eagles and is a wild card reclamation project at this point. Jones would indubitably step in and be Indianapolis’ No. 1 receiver right away, and Indy has a roster definitely ready to be in the playoffs aside from the uncertainty at quarterback.
General manager Chris Ballard is generally conservative when it comes to making splash moves and likes to build predominantly through the draft. He’s had a lot of success with that. The Wentz trade marked his first big move, and it was a massive risk.
Dealing for Jones to supplement the investment in Wentz is a savvy move that could help vault the Colts over Tennessee this year for AFC South supremacy.
4. San Francisco 49ers
Kyle Shanahan was once the Falcons’ offensive coordinator and had them so close to winning a Super Bowl. He elevated Ryan to an MVP level, and Jones put up monster numbers.
Now the 49ers head coach, Shanahan is such a genius play designer who he can scheme up ways for his best playmakers to get the ball even when coverage is rolling toward them. He’s done that throughout his time climbing the NFL coaching ranks and knows how to get it done with Jones.
San Francisco has a couple of excellent young wideouts in Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk. Not only would Jones’ mentoring be invaluable, but he’d also create a mutually beneficial dynamic in terms of drawing favorable matchups between himself and the Niners’ dynamic young duo.
The big catch here: The 49ers just traded two future first-round picks to move up for Trey Lance in the 2021 NFL Draft. They’d probably need to part with another first-round selection to land Jones, which may be too steep and too far out to pique Atlanta’s interest.
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