Julio Jones wasn’t kidding around. When he made it clear he was “outta there” — directly speaking to his status with the Atlanta Falcons — he meant it, and the team made sure his prediction came true. After weeks (months?) of fielding offers and actively trying to find a suitor to pay their asking price for the future Hall of Fame wide receiver, the Falcons have traded the 32-year-old to the Titans, with Tennessee confirming the move and terms. The Falcons receive the Titans’ 2022 second-round pick and a 2023 fourth-round pick. Along with getting Jones, the Titans will receive the Falcons’ 2023 sixth-round pick.
CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora pointed out that the Falcons were never getting more than a second-round pick for Jones.
In Tennessee, the seven-time Pro Bowler will join a Titans offense that includes fellow receivers A.J. Brown and Josh Reynolds, quarterback Ryan Tannehill, and two-time NFL rushing champion Derrick Henry.
It was expected the Falcons would wait until the calendar turned to June to pull the trigger, considering the salary cap ramifications. If the Falcons had traded Jones ahead of June 1, they would’ve suffered a hefty dead money hit of $23.25 million and lost $200,000 overall against their cap.
That’s moving in the wrong direction, and losing Jones to do it was all parts of nonsensical. That coin flipped as a post-June 1 move, however, because the Falcons will now see the dead money hit drop to $7.75 million and they’ll net $15.3 million in savings, according to OverTheCap. It’s undetermined if Jones will seek a new deal following the trade as has been rumored, but doing so might be beneficial for not only him but for the Titans as well, considering it would allow them to spread his incoming cap hit over a longer period of time.
Prior to the news of the trade, the Titans’ projected 2021 win total was 9.5 games, according to CBS Sports data scientist Stephen Oh. Tennessee’s win projection is now 10.1 with Jones’ addition, according to Oh. The Titans’ odds at winning a second consecutive AFC South division title have risen from 40.7% to 50%, with the team’s odds at winning the AFC improving from 6.5% to 9.4%. Conversely, the Falcons’ 2021 win projection has dipped from 8.9 to 8.5 wins. Atlanta’s playoff odds have also fallen from 43.6% to 34.9%.
Jones battled injury in 2020 that held him to only nine games played, but he still produced 771 receiving yards, and he’s only one season removed from a 1,394 yard, six touchdown campaign in 2019 that followed a 1,677 yard, eight touchdown explosion two seasons ago. His career numbers (12,896 receiving yards and 60 touchdowns in 10 seasons on 848 catches) make him a first ballot Hall of Fame contender, and he’s not done, readying to add to his 58 games of 100 yards or more when the regular season gets underway in September.
Yes, Jones is 32 years old, but rumors of his supposed downturn might be greatly exaggerated, and that’s why several teams were calling the Falcons. In the end, it was the Titans who won over the Falcons, and Jones will now don a different jersey for the first time in his illustrious NFL career.
Tennessee bolstered its offensive during the draft with the selection of former North Dakota State offensive tackle Dillon Radunz with the 53rd overall pick. The addition of Jones should surely bolster a Titans passing attack that finished 23rd in the NFL in 2020. He will only strengthen a Titans offense that finished fifth in the league in third down efficiency and second and red zone efficiency last season.