Julio Jones, Antonio Cromartie
(Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

Julio Jones requested a trade prior to the draft and now says he won’t be returning to Atlanta. Should the New York Jets pursue him?

On a phone call with host Shannon Sharpe during an episode of FS1’s Undisputed, Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones revealed his desire to part ways with the team, seemingly unaware that he was on the air. When asked by Sharpe if he wants to stay in Atlanta, Jones responded, “I’m outta there.”

Following Jones’s statement, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport revealed that Jones had requested a trade “a few months ago,” and that the team agreed to listen to offers.

Rapoport added that the Falcons received many calls about Jones prior to the draft, but that there is no guarantee he gets moved.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter revealed some details about the Falcons’ trade discussions involving Jones. Atlanta has been asking teams for a first-round pick, but it does not seem like anyone is biting on it.

Schefter adds that the Falcons prefer to trade Jones to an AFC team, but that they would still trade him within the NFC for the right price.

Would it make sense for the New York Jets to pursue the 7-time Pro Bowl wideout? Let’s weigh some of the pros and cons.

Pros

It doesn’t really need to be explained how great of a player Jones is and how beneficial it would be for Zach Wilson to have him as a teammate. Jones’s career average of 95.5 receiving yards per game is the best in NFL history. He has ranked top-five among wide receivers in yards per route run in eight consecutive seasons.

Jones missed seven games in 2020, but when healthy, he showed that he is still capable of dominating even at 31 years old. He was extremely efficient on a per-play basis, ranking fourth among wide receivers in yards per route run (2.60) and third in yards per target (11.3). Overall, Jones averaged 85.7 receiving yards per game, placing sixth at his position.

Imagine giving your rookie quarterback an arsenal of Julio Jones, Corey Davis, Elijah Moore, Denzel Mims, Jamison Crowder, and Keelan Cole to kick off his career. That would be one of the strongest supporting casts ever created for a quarterback taken in the top five.

Jets X-Factor

The Jets have quite a few connections to Jones on their coaching staff and roster. Offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur coached Jones as an offensive assistant for two years from 2015-16. Passing game coordinator Greg Knapp was the Falcons’ quarterbacks coach from 2018-20. Defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich coached Jones’s practice opponents for six years as Atlanta’s linebackers coach from 2015-20. The same goes for defensive backs coach Marquand Manuel, who coached Atlanta’s secondary from 2015-16 and was promoted to their defensive coordinator role from 2017-18.

Running back Tevin Coleman played alongside Jones for four years from 2015-16. Linebacker Del’Shawn Phillips was on Atlanta’s roster throughout the 2019 offseason after being signed as an undrafted free agent.

If Schefter’s report holds true and the Falcons are unable to nab a first-rounder for Jones, he could go for the price of a second-round pick, which is one that the draft pick-laden Jets can easily stomach. The Jets have an extra 2022 second-round pick courtesy of the Panthers, and they have an extra first-round pick courtesy of the Seahawks as well.

Cons

Jones’s contract is certainly one of the biggest reasons that teams seem to be hesitant to pony up too much draft capital for him. He will have a $22.1 million cap hit in 2021, the highest among wide receivers. His cap hit will drop to $19.3 million in 2022 and 2023, but Jones’s contract cannot be escaped without a significant dead money hit.

If cut in the 2022 offseason, Jones’s team would save $1.8 million and eat $17.5 million in dead money. Even if he is cut in the 2023 offseason, Jones’s team will have to eat $7.8 million in dead money while saving $11.5 million. Taking on his contract is essentially a three-year commitment.

Teams also have to be concerned about Jones’s age, durability, and trajectory.

Jones just turned 32 years old in February, and there were some signs of incoming decline last year. In 2020, his average of 85.7 yards per game (while obviously still an elite number) was his worst mark since 2012. His overall Pro Football Focus grade of 86.3 was his worst since 2013. Additionally, his 2020 campaign was mired by a hamstring injury that kept him out of seven games, the second-highest total of games that he has missed in a season (his most since missing 11 games in 2013).

While Jones was clearly still a top-10 wide receiver in 2020, it is important for NFL franchises to make decisions based on projection rather than past production. Teams need to figure out who a guy will be, not who he is. In 2020, Jones took a big step back by his own standards, and when you couple that with the fact he is 32 years old and battling hamstring issues, the odds appear strong that his decline will continue.

Of course, Jones’s “decline” still leaves him as one of the best receivers in football entering 2021, and even with another step back or two, he should remain a good starter at the very worst. But to be worth the high draft pick and the massive amount of cap space it will take to acquire him, Jones will need to remain at his peak level, and there are a lot of signs telling us that his best days are behind him.

From a Jets perspective, it’s worth considering how the presence of Jones could potentially block the development of a unit that is loaded with high-upside young pieces who were either drafted or signed by Joe Douglas.

Denzel Mims is looking to take a second-year leap while Elijah Moore enters his rookie year loaded with potential. Corey Davis is coming off of a breakout 2020 season in which he finally lived up to his billing as a top-five pick, and at only 26 years old, he will be aiming to prove he can maintain his 2020 excellence throughout the duration of his prime years. Perhaps the Jets are confident enough in their unit’s upside and scheme compatibility to the point where they do not feel the need to overpay for big names on the trade market.


What do you think? Should Joe Douglas and the Jets dip their toes into the Julio Jones market? Or should they steer clear?

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Milesahead
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Milesahead

No. I can’t of any compelling reasons why the Jets pursue Julio Jones, but I can think of plenty reasons why they shouldn’t. He’s a 32 year old future HOP player who could still have several good, perhaps even great years left in the tank. but acquiring him — at any price — will have virtually zero impact on the overall performance of this team this year or next. The Jets are not a #1 WR short of a serious SB run. They already have a quality group of receivers in Davis, Mims, Crowder, Moore, Cole, etc., more than enough… Read more »

Dark Demonik
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Dark Demonik

The answer is no

elehtis
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elehtis

The two players Mims has been compared (favorably) to most often are AJ Green and Julio Jones, based on build, level of athleticism, catch radius, and contested catch ability, among other traits. TBF to Jones and Green, Mims has to prove he merits either of those comparisons. Nevertheless, while it would be good fun to have JJ on the team, he would be taking important reps away from DM, and let’s also not forget Corey Davis, who has a similar profile as well as a high cap hit. Add in Crowder’s $10M and that’s just too much at the WR… Read more »