Before the Atlanta Falcons made their trade deal with Julio Jones official, they had several teams calling about the two-time All-Pro wideout. However, only one team stayed consistent for weeks——the Tennessee Titans.
But what, or in this case who led to the Titans pulling the trigger on Jones?
In a very complex and honest column by Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer, Tennessee’s general manager Jon Robinson went into detail on their decision to make the trade.
“We did a lot of background work, talked to several different people,” Robinson told Breer in an exclusive interview. “Everybody was pumped about his competitiveness, his desire to win, the way he works. And at the end of the day, Coach Saban spoke highly of Julio and his approach to the game of football. It felt like that was kind of the final straw. You have arguably the greatest college coach of all-time to endorse a player that he coached in college, and obviously has stayed in contact with. I think that was kind of the closer, that ‘Hey, this guy’s about what we’re about.’”
Breer also noted that Titans head coach Mike Vrabel spoke to Saban “multiple times to try and get a feel for who Jones is as a person.”
And one day after the blockbuster trade, Alabama football announced Saban had signed an extension through 2028. He will be 77-years-old at the conclusion of that deal.
In exchange for Jones, the Falcons received a 2022 second-round pick and 2023 fourth-round pick. Along with Jones, Atlanta also sent a 2023 sixth-round pick to Tennessee.
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More Truths Unveiled by Breer
Some will say that the Falcons had an “unfair” trade, but at the end of the day it all makes sense as to why it went down the way it did.
I can’t take any credit for what I am about to sum up. But if you’re having doubts about this trade, you need to go read up on Breer’s piece to fully understand and process everything.
To start, Julio Jones wanted out. In fact, he wanted out two years ago when he requested a trade under former head coach Dan Quinn and GM Thomas Dimitroff. Instead, he signed a $66 million dollar contract extension. This deal would later (ta-da) come to haunt them.
Once Quinn was fired, Jones went to the new guys, Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith, before the 2021 NFL Draft to request another trade. They honored Jones’s request and took calls from various teams. Initially, the Falcons were asking for a first-round pick and while several false reports said there was one on the table, Breer confirmed there was never a first-round offer made.
Jones’s Health Remains A Big Question Mark & Money “Talks”
There never a first-round trade package primarily due to Jones’s ongoing health issues, his 2020 decline, and the fact that the Falcons didn’t want to pay another penny of his contract. Also, the Titans were the only team who were serious about a trade offer and needed another weapon at the receiver slot. They were also the only team who could afford to pay Jones more if he were to have a successful 2021 season and ask for a bigger contract.
As for Atlanta, they needed all of the cap space that they could get to sign their 2021 draft rookies and eventually Calvin Ridley’s or Kyle Pitts’ future contracts.
“The Falcons felt comfortable with Calvin Ridley as their top receiver,” Breer wrote. “And part of the equation here that can’t be lost—Ridley is eligible for a second contract now, and Atlanta’s new brass knows they’re going to have to pay up to keep him.”
It all came down to money. The Falcons dodged a huge cap hit and added some valuable trade picks in the meantime. It sucks to see Jones go, but it’s time to focus on the future.
Again, thank you Mr. Breer for making this all make sense.