ESPN’s Adam Schefter was the first to report the signing on July 26, emphasizing that “the soon-to-be 45-year Tom Brady now will have a chance to throw to the 33-year-old Jones.”
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The Falcons Traded Julio Jones Ahead of the 2021 Season
After 10 seasons of repping red and black, Jones was traded by the Falcons to the Tennessee Titans in July 2021. Atlanta also sent a 2023 sixth-round pick to Tennessee. In exchange for Jones, the Titans sent a 2022 second-round draft pick and a 2023 fourth-round selection to the Falcons.
Jones was 32 at the time and had been yearning to get out of Atlanta since before the 2021 NFL draft, when he initially requested a trade. After a decade in Atlanta and no Super Bowl ring, Jones was more than ready to move on.
However, his year in Tennessee didn’t go as expected. He played in only 10 games, logging just 31 receptions for 434 yards with one touchdown.
Why Jones Wasn’t Coming Back to Atlanta
Before he signed with the Bucs, the Falcons were projected among the favorites to bring him back. But that was never going to happen. Following Jones’ split from Atlanta, Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer revealed in a June 2021 story some details behind the trade, making sense of it once and for all.
To start, Jones had wanted out. In fact, he had wanted out two years earlier, when he requested a trade under former head coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff. Instead, he signed a $66 million contract extension. However, that deal would later come to haunt the franchise’s salary cap.
Once Quinn was fired, Jones went to the new head coach-GM duo, Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith, before the 2021 draft to request a trade (again). This time, they honored Jones’ request and took calls from various teams. Initially, the Falcons were asking for a first-round pick. Though several false reports said there was one on the table, Breer confirmed that there was never a first-round offer made.
The Titans were the only team serious about the trade and the only team in the mix that could afford to pay Jones more if he performed well last season.
Thus, he landed in Tenessee — excited for a fresh start.
But after a busted 2021 season, Jones needed another fresh start, and signing a cheap deal with a winning team seemed to make more sense than heading back to the Falcons, who are on tap for another season of rebuilding with Matt Ryan now on the Indianapolis Colts and a stopgap quarterback, likely Marcus Mariota, expected to start and third-round pick Desmond Ridder expected to be the team’s quarterback of the future.
Meanwhile, Tom Brady and the Bucs should finish the 2022-23 season first in the NFC South, meaning Jones could see his first playoff run for the first time in 2017, when the Falcons lost to Brady in the Super Bowl.