Rumors have been swirling around Julio Jones’s upcoming departure from Atlanta, and they don’t quite add up. Many are saying that the Titans are the heavy favorite to land Jones for a second-round pick. However, there are also reports that a first-round pick is on the table. The betting favorites change daily after reports continuously get disputed. Nothing appears to be accurate except for the fact that Julio Jones wants out and the Patriots are on the list of potential suiters. The Seahawks are the new rising team, just days after the Rams were falsely given a similar trajectory.
Analysts and fans alike have been debating the value of Julio Jones over recent weeks, and some of the couch GM’s have gotten out of hand. Jones is a generational talent that could make the Patriots a serious contender in the AFC. They have a loaded defense and plenty of new toys on both sides of the ball. However, they still lack an elite pass-catcher. With their recent overhaul of the roster, the Patriots will almost certainly have a pick that is at least in the mid-twenty range. A late first-round pick is absolutely worth trading for three years of Julio Jones, even at 32-years-old. Here are some reasons to go all-in on the future Hall of Fame receiver:
1. Julio Jones Is Built To Last
The biggest complaint from fans not wanting to trade value for Jones is about his age. Yes, Jones is past his prime. However, Julio Jones at 85%-90% is still better than all but a handful of active players in the league. Jones still averaged 85.7 yards per game in 2020, despite battling a hamstring strain in week two that held him to only nine games and plagued him all season. A 31-year-old Julio Jones with a grade two hamstring injury was still good enough to tear defenses apart. You can safely assume a healthy 32-year-old Jones will still have plenty left in the tank.
Jones has three years left on his deal, and his contract becomes extremely team friendly after this season (more on that later). I believe Jones will be playing at a high level for years to come based on his size and strengths. At 6’3″ 220 lbs, Jones has drawn comparisons to another legend that has produced well into his 30’s – Larry Fitzgerald (6’3″ 218 lbs). Fitzgerald was able to continue to excel as a receiver past his prime because of his elite route running and reliable hands. He didn’t need blazing speed to create separation and was able to reel in contested catches even when he was covered. Jones is one of the leagues best route runners and has one of the largest catch radiuses in football. Here is what Fitzgerald was able to do during his ages 32 through 34 seasons:
If Julio Jones can produce anywhere near the level that Fitzgerald did, fans will have nothing to complain about. One thing is for sure, Belichick has seen the tape on Fitzgerald and will know how to get the most out of one of the best players in the game.
2. Julio Jones Is Going To A Contender
The Atlanta Falcons are reportedly trying to end their time with Jones on good terms by trading him to a contender. It is also obvious that lower-tier teams aren’t going to go all in on a veteran receiver. If anything, the Patriots should snag Jones just to pry him away from other championship caliber teams. Imagine if the Titans add Jones to pair with A.J. Brown and Derrick Henry. Now think about Jones, Metcalf and Lockett with Wilson under center. Just about any offense will be put over the edge with the addition of Julio Jones. Let’s save New England’s coaching staff the headache and bring him down to Foxborough.
3. The Contract Is Team Friendly
Julio Jones’s contract drops substantially in the next two seasons, putting the Patriots in a good position moving forward. He is owed $11,513,000 in 2022 and 2023. His total cash due ranks 17th in 2022 for wide receivers.
The team-friendly contract would lead to two options. The first is that Jones performs like the Hall of Famer he is in 2021 and asks for a warranted raise in 2022. The other option is that he gets hurt/doesn’t produce at the level he is capable and stays on a team-friendly prove it deal in years 2022 and 2023. Either option provides upside for the roster over the next three seasons. Beat writers are saying the contract situation is a wash because he will eventually ask for more. They seem to forget that to get a contract re-negotiated Jones would have to have a hell of a season in 2021.
4. Patriots Have Been Missing With Top Draft Selections
For a draft pick to have value, it has to lead to great players. I would much rather take a chance on a 32-year-old Julio Jones over taking the next N’Keal Harry, Sony Michel or Isaiah Wynn. Now Michel and Wynn have been productive players, but I’d bet on Jones’ next three seasons being far more impressive than the production out of either one of those players over the course of their rookie deal.
5. The Patriots Do Not Need Top Prospects
It’s also important to note that the Patriots did not draft a player in the first round during the 2013, 2016, 2017 and 2020 drafts. The team has functioned at an extremely high level without top-rated rookies. To add to that comment, the players drafted in the first round during that span were Dominique Easley, Malcolm Brown, and the three players mentioned above. The last high-caliber draft pick in the first round was Dont’a Hightower in 2012 (Chandler Jones was also drafted by New England four picks prior in the 2012 draft).