The Fantasy Impact of a Julio Jones Trade
Hello Heat Seekers welcome to episode 139 of Sully’s 2 Cents Fantasy Football Podcast, I am your host I am Rob Sullivan. The Sully’s 2 Cents Fantasy Football Podcast is a proud member of the RotoHeat Family of podcasts.
As crazy at it sounds the Atlanta Falcons are discussing trading the face of their franchise Julio Jones. Now Atlanta isn’t looking to move the sure-fire hall of fame WR because they doubt his abilty to continue to play at a high level, no they are looking to move Jones because the are in need of salary cap relief.
The Falcons are up against the salary cap, they reportedly don’t have enough money to pay their rookie class. If Atlanta deals Jones, it will solve their issues this year and give them some added flexibility for next season.
According to overthecap.com, Julio Jones is a $23,050,000 cap hit in 2021. If they were to cut or trade Julio before June 1st, there would be a $40,550,000 dead cap hit to absorb. Now if they wait until after June 1st, the dead cap turns into a $17,500,000 savings. You do not need to be a mathematician to determine when the time to move Julio is, if you are cash strapped GM Terry Fontenot.
Julio would also be fairly affordable for the acquiring team, with annual salaries of $15.3 million in 2021 and $11.51 million in the final two years of his contract. Of the money owed to Julio over the next three seasons, only $17.5 million of it is guaranteed.
Do I think the Falcons should trade Julio Jones? No, I do not. Do I think Atlanta trade Julio Jones? Yes, yes I do. So that very opinion raises two very interesting questions that I will attempt to answer here today. The first is where does he land, and the second is what is the fantasy impact of a Julio Jones trade.
There thirty-one teams that should be interested in acquiring Julio Jones. Realistically I see seven teams that I believe are both interested in acquiring Julio and have the cap flexibility to do so.
1. New England Patriots
When I think of Julio going to the Patriots the first word that entered my mind is gross. Despite my personal feelings on this landing spot, it appears at this time it may very well be where he goes if dealt. Bill Belichick doesn’t enjoy losing it would appear and he has been extremely aggressive in attempting to improve his offense this offseason.
The Patriots added a pair of tight ends in Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith, and also added Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne. Agholor and Bourne are decent supporting cast members but these two WRs are not going to move the needle for an offense that ranked 27th in both points and yards per game in 2020.
The Patriots have both the ammunition and mindset to make a deal and can create enough cap space through a minor transaction or two. New England like every team this time of year believe they can contend with either Cam Newton or first-round rookie Mac Jones under center, and that the addition of Jones would take them over the top.
From a fantasy perspective the addition of Julio would crush what is left of the fantasy value for players like Jakobi Meyers, N’Keal Harry, as well as Bourne and Agholor. It would also expedite the timeline on rookie QB Mac Jones. Trading for Julio to play with Cam Newton makes little to no sense to me.
The deal for Julio would have a negative impact on his fantasy value, but only a slight one. Assuming everyone is healthy Julio is unquestionably the top target in New England, but he goes to a lesser offense with a QB (if Newton is the starter), that struggles to throw the football, and prefers to run in the red zone.
2. Los Angeles Chargers
When I think of Julio in LA to play with the Chargers, I think hell yes.
Justin Herbert exceeded all expectations in Year 1 and could very well be the next sophomore quarterback to take the league by storm. An upper-echelon quarterback on a rookie contract is arguably the most valuable asset in the NFL, and the Chargers should be exploring every option to maximize their three-year window before Herbert’s second contract.
L.A. doesn’t have as glaring a need at receiver as other teams I am talking about today. Keenan Allen is a legitimate No. 1 pass-catcher, hauling in 403 passes over the last four seasons. Mike Williams, meanwhile, is one of the better 50-50 receivers in the NFL and has 1,757 receiving yards since 2019. The Chargers lost TE Hunter Henry in free agency, and Jalen Guyton and rookie Josh Palmer are the team’s only solid receiving options behind Allen and Williams.
Taking on Jones’ contract would be fairly straightforward for the Chargers, who have over $20 million in cap space. In addition, Williams is entering the final year of his rookie contract, and likely his final year with the Chargers. Jones would not only give the Chargers an intimidating trio of pass catchers in 2021, but he would also insure them against losing Williams to free agency next offseason. Julio Jones would see his fantasy value rise with this deal. His QB situation at worst is the same as he has now, and it is likely even better with Herbert. His new offense is solid and he would be running routes with two other receivers that command a defenses attention.
This move is almost too good to be true fantasy wise, hell Julio might even score touchdowns in LA, something he has somehow struggled to do as a member of the Falcons.
3. Baltimore Ravens
This potential deal is gross as well, not as gross as the deal to New England, but its gross none the less.
The Ravens entered the offseason with one goal above all others: Improve Lamar Jackson’s wide receiver group. Baltimore ultimately landed Sammy Watkins after unsuccessful runs at free agents JuJu Smith-Schuster and T.Y. Hilton, then used one of their its first-round picks on Minnesota WR Rashod Bateman.
While Watkins, Bateman, and Marquise Brown form a far more talented group than Jackson had last year, there’s no guarantee they’ll yield a significantly improved passing attack. Watkins hasn’t recorded 1,000 yard season since 2015, and Bateman will likely need time to adjust to the physicality of the NFL. Hollywood Brown in his first tow season has proven to be a homerun or nothing type of wide receiver.
Jones upon landing in Baltimore would immediately become the true No. 1 target Jackson has lacked since entering the NFL. His presence would also ease the pressure on the Ravens’ young wideouts to perform immediately. Baltimore would need to get creative with its cap, as it doesn’t have many obvious contracts to restructure, but NFL clubs have a near magical way of creating cap space when required.
Considering the team’s aggressive pursuits in free agency, it seems like a safe bet that the Ravens would find a way to accommodate a talent of Jones’ caliber.
The addition of Julio would impact Bateman and Brown the most, and also have a negative impact on whatever is left of Sammy Watkins and TE Mark Andrews. As for Julio himself, I see this as a negative on expected volume alone. Regardless of the receivers that the Ravens run out there each week, this is a run first, run often football team, Julio or no Julio nothing is changing that.
4. San Francisco 49ers
A Julio-49ers pairing makes sense for several reasons. Although San Francisco moved its first-round pick in next year’s draft to put them in a position to draft third and select Trey Lance, the Falcons likely won’t demand a first round pick in a potential trade for Jones. A second and a mid-round pick should be enough to secure his services. It’s hard to imagine the 49ers would be unwilling to make a deal of that nature.
Trading Jones to San Francisco would reunite him with Kyle Shanahan. San Francisco’s coach was Atlanta’s offensive coordinator from 2015-16, and he and Jones reached a Super Bowl together. The 49ers already roster young stars in Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk, but adding a true all-around receiver would take Shanahan’s offense to the next level – not to mention aid Trey Lance’s development.
This is a team that is built to win now, adding Julio could take them over the top. From a fantasy perspective, its not great for Brandon Aiyuk, and Julio himself. I am not sure what this does for George Kittle, and I am fairly certain it’s a neutral addition for Deebo. It is a plus for whichever QB the Niners run out there, after all you are adding one of the best WRs of his era.
Similar to Baltimore this is a run first run often team. The biggest difference in my opinion is we have seen Kyle Shanahan flex his offense to utilize his players strengths before in Washington, Atlanta and in San Francisco. The thought of Trey Lance and his cannon of an arm having Julio to target is rather intoxicating.
5. Tennessee Titans
When considering the team with the biggest need and the team that likely makes the most sense, enter the Tennessee Titans. The Titans’ offense was gutted in free agency, with Jonnu Smith, Adam Humphries, and Corey Davis all leaving. Tennessee wasn’t able to retain Smith or Davis – two key offensive pieces in recent seasons – mainly due, in part, to a lack of cap space.
The Titans have around $3.5 million of available cap space at the moment. However, like we discussed in terms of the Ravens, there is money to be found here. They could find some by reworking the contracts of RB Derrick Henry, and or OT Taylor Lewan. Taking on Jones’ contract would likely require restructuring those players’ deals, and it remains to be seen if Tennessee is willing to risk creating more long-term cap issues to land the wideout.
The need at receiver, though, is clear. Davis, Smith, and Humphries were second, third, and fifth in team catches in 2020. With little done to replace the trio, A.J. Brown could be primed for a 160-target season. But the Titans are also a run-first team. Even with the aforementioned losses, it’s fair to question if Tennessee would get enough value out of Jones given the price of acquiring him.
Jones would take a step back fantasy wise landing in Tennessee, but the addition should be good for Ryan Tannehill and AJ Brown. Jones gives Tannehill a legit additional weapon and Brown should see less double and triple coverage. Those holding out hope for fantasy relevance from free agent addition Josh Reynolds, will not like this transaction.
6. Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs don’t currently have the cap space for Jones, but they’re only a move or two from securing it. They could release a player or two, or Kansas City could extend defensive back Tyrann Mathieu, pushing a chunk of his salary into future years, thus creating space for the 2021 season.
It’s no secret Andy Reid and the Chiefs were in the market for receivers this offseason. Seeking more stability opposite Tyreek Hill, the Chiefs pursued JuJu Smith-Schuster and Josh Reynolds in free agency and were interested in a few others before re-signing Demarcus Robinson.
I think it is safe to say that any offensive player in the league today, would benefit from joining an Andy Reid led offense led by the best QB in the game today Patrick Mahomes. Jones in Kansas City’s offense is a truly frightening thought, even if the wideout’s best seasons are behind him.
Julio would create space for Travis Kelce, and Tyreek Hill. Julio himself likely sees his typical target share diminish, but the quality of the targets and the upside this offense brings likely offsets the decline. His addition is not the greatest news for Mecole Hardman and Demarcus Robinson, but those two are hard to trust on a weekly basis regardless.
Chiefs GM Brett Veach has already shown a willingness to aggressively pursue players at his roster’s weaker positions; a chance to field two of the NFL’s top five receivers for all-world quarterback Patrick Mahomes may be too tempting to pass up.
Kansas City would be a great landing spot for Julio Jones and the Kansas City Chiefs. By acquiring Julio, the Chiefs would also keep him away from their divisional rival the Los Angeles Chargers.
7. Indianapolis Colts
The Colts have wildly been rumored all offseason to be in the market for wide receiver help. Other than re-signing T.Y Hilton and drafting Michael Strachan in the seventh round.
T.Y. Hilton is not the WR we once went out of our way to add to our fantasy rosters, and Michael Strachan He has plenty of development ahead of him. The rest of the Colts WR room is either young, inexperienced and frequently injured, or older fantasy irrelevant options.
Michael Pittman is an intriguing asset, and Parris Campbell may be as well if he could ever avoid injury to show us what he’s really got. Zach Pascal will have a good game or two, he does every season, the problem is good luck trying to figure out which one, and JJ Nelson is an aging veteran that should struggle to make the team.
Julio Jones would instantly become the top pass catching option for newly acquired QB Carson Wentz. The addition of Julio would be good for both Jones and Wentz. Julio is Julio and should see his 150+ targets should he remain healthy. For Wentz, he was best in Philadelphia when he had a healthy Alshon Jeffery to throw too.
Michael Pittman, would line up opposite Julio and benefit from reduce double coverage and opponents lesser cornerback. Parris Campbell assuming he can play slides into the slot and should be able to perform well as the team’s third pssing option.
Indianapolis is a very good football team, with a chance to contend if Carson Wentz can find his 2017 form. Julio Jones in Indy elevates the Colts chances to win their division. Julio Jones also would have a positive impact on all those WRs around him. Simply out there is likely nobody better in the game today to play with and learn with than Julio Jones.
8. Atlanta Falcons
So back to my thoughts at the top of this podcast, should the Falcons trade Julio, the answer in my opinion is absolutely not.
Julio Jones is a future Hall of Famer. He is signed for three years, and with Julio, Calvin Ridley, Russell Gage, and Kyle Pitts, the Falcons should have a pretty dangerous air attack in a division where the other teams’ quarterbacks are Sam Darnold, either Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill, and 44 years old Tom Brady. The Falcons will be coached by Arthur Smith in 2021 after canning Dan Quinn. Atlanta is listed at 8-1 to win the South, they actually have a shot if their defense is halfway decent in 2021. If they trade Julio they trade away any chance of winning the division.
Other than the post June 1st significance in terms of dead cap money, it’s really not a a good time to trade Jones. The draft is over, so any pick you acquire is going to get worse by virtue of the fact that the team you’re getting it from better by acquiring Julio Jones in an attempt to try and make a Super Bowl run. Add to the fact , you are trading a player who is coming off a nine-game season at the age of 32. Julio Jones has never been worth less on the trade market.
Realistically thought the Falcons need to rebuild and they especially need help on the defensive side of the football. I guess if you can’t pay your recent rookie class you need to make some drastic moves. So moving Julio for the significant cap savings makes sense on the business side even if it doesn’t make sense in regards to the on field product.
So, what does a Julio less Atlanta offense look like? They still have weapons, Matt Ryan is still an above average QB in this league, Calvin Ridley is a top WR, Kyle Pitts is one of the most hyped rookies ever, and guys like Russell Gage and Mike Smith have shown flashes of being able to contribute.
The loss of Julio in my opinion benefits Russell Gage and Kyle Pitts the most and hurts Calvin Ridley. Gage becomes the No.2 WR in an offense that is going to have to pass the ball if they hope to compete. Kyle Pitts who has never stepped foot on the field as a pro, instantly becomes the No.2 2 target behind Ridley, and likely gets the biggest fantasy boost of all the Falcons.
Ridley who arguably is the Falcons top WR with or without Julio, likely sees a ton of double coverage without Julio, and all but assures himself of lining up against the opponents top corner weekly. Ridley is an exceptional route runner and one of the top WRs in the game, but he suffers is he’s forced to become Batman after years of being Robin in the Falcons offense, without a Robin of his own for defenders to half to deal with.
There is no denying that losing Julio Jones as a weapon hurts Matt Ryan and it hurts this offense as a whole. The Atlanta Falcons with and without Julio likely take a different approach on offense and Smith has shown that he can feature the run if need be during his time as OC in Tennessee. I do not see Atlanta being as run heavy as the Titans are, but without Julio the running game does see an uptick in terms of percentage of play calls.
Trading Julio benefits the team that acquires him, and benefits the Atlanta Falcons salary cap, as far as football and fantasy football how a deal benefits Julio remains to be seen and is very dependent on his address should it no longer be in Georgia.
Thank you for reading episode 139 – The Fantasy Impact of a Julio Jones Trade.
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