Why Washington shouldn't try to bring in Julio Jones

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Peter Hailey
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Why WFT shouldn't try to make a deal for Julio Jones originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

There's a new player who's starting to be mentioned in NFL trade rumors, and he's one that any other offense in the sport would love to have on their side: Julio Jones.

As NBC's Peter King wrote in his weekly Monday column, he "would not" be surprised if the Falcons moved on from their all-time great wideout. As for why Atlanta would ponder such an act, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport provided this on-air explanation.

"They're in horrible cap shape," Rapoport said. "They can't even sign their draft picks without doing something."

And when it comes to how a Jones swap could be executed, Rapoport offered up a possible timeline and structure.

"The way it would work, potentially, is the Falcons would agree to a deal in principle before the draft," he said. "The trade would involve next year's draft picks, not this year's, next year's. Then it would be executed after June 1, because the cap hit — what it would be before June 1 — is basically impossible. So, agree now and do the deal after June 1."

So, Jones' future with the only organization he's ever known is somewhat questionable, and that organization has financial motivation to explore the thought of sending him away. Plus, Atlanta just hired a new head coach and general manager, meaning there's a new regime in town that has no ties to the seven-time Pro Bowler.

With all of that setup complete, the question becomes: Should Washington attempt to become the other half of a Jones transaction?

Even though he's deservedly renowned in the sport, and even though he could elevate the Burgundy and Gold's receiving corps to serious, new heights, there are a few key reasons for Ron Rivera's franchise to sit out whatever race may materialize for Jones.

First, a quick and obvious note: Jones is about as productive a player as can be. From 2014 to 2019, his lowest yardage output was 1,394. That sentence is borderline inappropriate and barely made it into this story. 

Now, hamstring injuries cost him seven contests in 2020, yet despite missing basically half the schedule, he still finished 41st overall in receiving yards by racking up 771 of them. That number would've exceeded Logan Thomas, Washington's second-leading target last year, if Jones had posted it in Washington. 

Whoever's opposed to Rivera and the front office pursuing Jones will likely use his health and his age (he turned 32 a couple of months ago) as the leading points of their case. Those factors, however, won't appear here.

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Here's the argument against the deal: What Washington did in free agency and what they could do in the draft are why spending assets to acquire Jones doesn't make as much sense for them as it does for other squads.

Had this conversation started in, like, February, then yes, Jones would be viewed as a very appealing piece. But with Curtis Samuel and Adam Humphries slated to support Terry McLaurin in 2021, the Falcons legend doesn't have a wide-open spot to fill.

Jones is clearly far more proven and more dangerous than Samuel and Humphries, but Washington spent a considerable amount of money to sign the hopefully-still-ascending Samuel, and Rivera has publicly worried in the past about how bringing in veterans like Eric Reid and Antonio Brown could stunt his up-and-comers. Humphries, meanwhile, will man the slot as long as he's healthy, giving Ryan Fitzpatrick a trio of reliable options to survey every Sunday.

Washington will have ample opportunity to further bolster that area of the depth chart during this weekend's draft as well. They could certainly do so with their first-round choice, or they could also try to mine for the next McLaurin in the middle rounds.

Many NFL experts will tell you it's never been easier to find impact pass-catchers via the draft, and if Rivera is able to hit on one, he'll have that guy locked down on a cheap contract for seasons to come. Also, that rookie's long-term upside ought to be greater than Jones', even if Jones projects to be more useful right away.

Finally, while talking compensation is a surefire way to eliminate most of the fun in any hypothetical trade chatter, that's something that'll be on Washington's mind. Duh.

Based off of Rapaport's outline, Jones could maybe be had for 2022 draft selections. If that proves to be true, it's definitely tempting to nab him and then wait to pay the bill for him 12 months later. Yet Rivera might hesitate at forfeiting additional chances to snare young building blocks, as any prudent leader would. 

What about a player-for-player deal? Washington appears to be headed toward having to shed one of its defensive linemen because of budget constraints, meaning someone like Jonathan Allen or Daron Payne may be more expendable than a casual fan would think. That feels easier to justify, but prematurely diminishing the roster's top strength is a risky proposition, too.

The NFL's most reputable contenders often reach that tier thanks to sudden, unforeseen moves. If Washington were to snag Jones, it would undoubtedly qualify as a sudden, unforeseen move, and it'd also feasibly turn them into a more reputable contender, if it fully worked out.

That said, even an eventual Hall of Famer like Jones comes with an abundance of questions, and those questions are enough to at least make Washington pause — if not just sit this one out entirely.