Julio Jones’ stint with the Tennessee Titans doesn’t look as though it will last beyond one disappointing season. Instead, the Atlanta Falcons’ all-time leader in receptions and receiving yardage is expected to be released during free agency.
Jones’ likely fate was revealed by ESPN reporters Dianna Russini and Adam Schefter on Wednesday, March 16:
The news broke ahead of the official start of the new calendar year in the NFL. It’s a day when all 32 teams have to get under the salary cap, and Jones looks like being a casualty of the process.
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Jones Flopped Following Falcons Trade
It was less than a year ago when the Falcons dealt Jones to the AFC South. The trade earned Atlanta a mere second-round pick in this draft, along with a fourth-round choice for 2023.
That looked like a modest return for a player who broke and set records for fun during 10 prolific seasons with the Falcons. Over that time, Jones established franchise marks for receptions, 848, as well as for yards, 12,896, according to The Football Database. Jones also went to seven Pro Bowls and was named first-team All-Pro twice.
Giving up on Jones appeared premature, but he had struggled to stay healthy late in his stint with the Falcons. He started just nine games during his final season on the team in 2020.
The same problem blighted Jones in Tennessee last year. A longstanding hamstring injury limited the 33-year-old to a mere 10 games, including 31 catches for 434 yards and just a single touchdown.
While he flopped with the Titans, the Falcons could still use Jones’ sure hands, size and skills in a depleted wide receiver room that’s already been stripped bare this offseason.
Falcons Need Wide Receiver Help
Jones leaving town started the rot among the Falcons’ wideout rotation. Since then, Calvin Ridley has been suspended for violating the league’s gambling policy, while Russell Gage joined division rivals the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, according to ESPN reporter Jeremy Fowler.
Gage was the Falcons’ leading receiver a year ago, but his exit completed the breakup of what was an enviable core of gifted pass-catchers not so long ago, per The Falcoholic’s William McFadden:
The Falcons have been trying to cling on to the few eligible receivers left in the building. Those efforts led to the team tendering restricted free agent Olamide Zaccheaus, with Katz Brothers Sports and Schefter reporting the Falcons now have right of first refusal on any offers for the 24-year-old.
Bringing Jones back would certainly grab a few headlines. Yet it would also provide a passing game shorn of talent with a proven and dynamic playmaker on the outside. Jones’ veteran presence would also surely blend well with Zaccheaus and a young star like second-year tight end Kyle Pitts.
The Falcons would still have work to do at wide receiver, but it’s not a stretch to envisage Jones still making an impact in the place where he used to dominated defenses so often.