Which team would most benefit from adding Julio Jones?

Which team would most benefit from adding Julio Jones?

Which teams could benefit the most from adding Julio Jones?
Which teams could benefit the most from adding Julio Jones?
Image: Getty Images

Quintorris Lopez Jones — more commonly known as Julio Jones — has been an Atlanta Falcon his entire Hall of Fame career. But with new weapons in town, team money problems, and 32 candles on his birthday cake this year, Jones and the Falcons may be parting ways before the start of 2021.

According to Jeff Schultz of the Athletic, Atlanta is looking to deal their seven-time Pro Bowler in large part due to the team’s dwindling cap space. In the article, Schultz names six teams as potential trade candidates for Jones — the Ravens, 49ers, Colts, Patriots, Titans, and Chargers. Three of those teams were in the playoffs last year, and the two of the remaining three are favorites to return to the postseason after a short hiatus. I’ll let you decide which two I’m talking about. But which of these teams would benefit most by adding Julio Jones to their roster?

Well, here we go… in reverse order:

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6) Tennessee Titans

6) Tennessee Titans

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If the Falcons are trying to dump Jones to help with their cap dilemma, the Titans would probably want to avoid Jones as well. Tennessee has only $3,587,125 left in cap space. Jones’s presence would put the Titans way over the limit and would lead to some tough personnel decisions from Tennessee’s front office. While it would be awesome to see Jones team up with AJ Brown and Derrick Henry, the Titans will likely shy away from making a move like this. But hey, of all the teams who’ve expressed interest, the Titans are the only team to win their division in 2020, so they’re probably fine as is.

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5) Baltimore Ravens

5) Baltimore Ravens

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Wide receiver was clearly Baltimore’s top concern this offseason. It had to be for a team that finished dead last in pass yards per game in 2020. That’s why the team added Sammy Watkins and drafted Rashod Bateman. Third-year receiver Marquise Brown hasn’t quite lived up to his first-round selection yet, so grabbing someone who’d been labeled a bust after being drafted in the first round only to become a pivotal part of his team’s Super Bowl victory years later in Watkins was a great move for a team in dire need of a veteran presence at the receiver position. Watkins is not the future of the position in Baltimore though. That was clear as soon as he signed just a one-year contract. He’s meant to be a layover in Baltimore’s plans to get to a Super Bowl.

It’s likely that Jones would fulfill that same role in Baltimore. In such a run-heavy offense like the Ravens’, Jones would not get nearly as many targets or receptions as he’s had in years past. Would Jones make Baltimore’s offense more dynamic? Oh yeah. It’d be fun to watch… for about four weeks. Then when you realize that Julio has only had one game with eight or more targets and hasn’t eclipsed 100 yards in any, you’ll probably focus your attention elsewhere.

If you think it’s a stretch to predict something like that, just consider that Marquise Brown has been the team’s nNo. 1 receiver for two years now. In that time, he’s reached the 100-yard threshold just twice in the regular season, and has only seen eight or more targets seven times. Julio would — without a doubt — see more balls thrown his way than Brown, but it’s unlikely John Harbaugh would change up his game plan with Lamar Jackson enough to maintain Julio’s production over the last several years.

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4) San Francisco 49ers

4) San Francisco 49ers

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In his two years as Atlanta’s offensive coordinator, Kyle Shanahan and Julio Jones were an unstoppable duo. Jones earned his only two First-Team All-Pro selections and racked up 219 receptions, 3,280 yards, and 14 touchdowns during those years. Now, when everyone believes Jones has been surpassed by Calvin Ridley in Atlanta’s offense, how great would it be to see Jones reunite with Shanahan and show everybody he’s still got plenty left in the tank?

Yeah, that would be great. Too bad it won’t happen. The 49ers could absolutely snag Jones, but to rekindle what he had with Shanny in Atlanta? Now, that’s pushing it. In Shanahan’s final season with Atlanta, his team was passing the ball on 56.1 percent of their plays. That rate has dropped by nearly 6 percent in Shanahan’s last two years with San Fran. Not to mention, Julio was being thrown the ball by the league MVP in 2016. Jimmy Garoppolo is no Matt Ryan, and it’s too early to determine 1) how good Trey Lance will be, and 2) whether or not Lance would be used in the 49ers passing game the same way Ryan was in Atlanta. It’s highly doubtful that the second one will come to fruition. Lance and Ryan are two drastically different quarterbacks and trying to turn Lance into Matt Ryan would only hurt his development.

With the loss of Kendrick Bourne this offseason, the 49ers are looking to add receiver depth. Bourne was the best red-zone threat San Francisco had on the outside over the last two seasons — leading all 49ers wide receivers in TDs in 2019 (5). However, Jones’ kryptonite has always been his inability to get into the end zone. He can rack up yards, but scoring comes much less naturally to him. Therefore, the 49ers would probably be best suited to look for a receiver with a different skill set (and cheaper too) that fits their team’s immediate needs better.

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3) Los Angeles Chargers

3) Los Angeles Chargers

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Keenan Allen is a bona fide No. 1 receiver in the NFL. No receiver in NFL history has racked up more receptions through 100 career games than the “Slayer.” Pairing him up with Julio Jones would give the Chargers an aerial attack to match that of Kansas City. Plus, with Hunter Henry packing his bags and heading to New England, the Chargers could use another weapon, because Mike Williams isn’t exactly becoming the player they thought he’d be.

Now, it’s easy to think that Allen and Jones would occupy the same role if teamed up in LA. That’s not accurate. While Allen is a short-level receiver — with an average depth of target (ADOT) of 7.2 yards in 2020 — Jones occupies the mid-level — maintaining an ADOT of greater than 11 each of the past three seasons. That is part of the reason why Allen is consistently near the top of the league in first down receptions and Jones is typically near the top of the league in yards per reception. Throw in the fact that Jalen Guyton had a mini-break out in 2020 as a deep threat, and you’ve got yourself a great 1-2-3 punch that occupies all levels of the field.

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2) New England Patriots

2) New England Patriots

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At some point during the 2021 NFL season, Mac Jones will become “the guy’” in Foxborough. Jones has been heralded as a great decision-maker with pinpoint accuracy — perfect for Bill Belichick’s system. The most common concern with Mac Jones has always been the incredible amount of talent he was surrounded by at Alabama. Will he be able to succeed when his top receivers are Kendrick Bourne and Nelson Agholor?

Well, why not avoid that question altogether and grab someone like Julio Jones. Not only does Julio provide an immediate threat for Mac, Newton, or whoever the Patriots opt to put under center for Week 1. It also provides Mac Jones with some familiarity as currently there’s only one player on New England’s offense who went to school at Alabama. Julio’s presence would be welcome on a team without a true proven No. 1 and would take a lot of weight off the shoulders of Agholor and Bourne, who are being asked to become true number ones right now despite the fact that neither has ever been close to one.

The Patriots have not ranked top-10 across the NFL in completion percentage since 2017. The addition of Jones — someone who constantly puts up elite catch rate numbers — would certainly help them get back to that mark. Keep in mind that the Patriots are in a division where they’ll have to take on Tre’Davious White and Byron Jones twice each every season. Having someone who can create space against elite cover corners like them would help tremendously.

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1) Indianapolis Colts

1) Indianapolis Colts

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Alright, Indianapolis. Your Super Bowl window is wide open, but something just doesn’t feel right. You have all the pieces necessary to put together a deep playoff run, but having Carson Wentz under center just doesn’t sit right with you. You should be worried. Carson Wentz was downright awful in 2020. However, Wentz’s issues can be attributed to three main issues: poor mechanics, a lack of time in the pocket, and the desire to play hero ball. All those points I just brought up are laid out beautifully in this video by Brett Kollmann.

Just being on the Colts solves one of those issues — time in the pocket. The Colts allowed only 21 sacks last year. The Eagles allowed 65. Pretty big difference, right? Pressure is the number one factor that plays into poor throws. Wentz won’t suffer nearly as much as he did last season in Philly.

The throwing mechanics are something that will need to be worked on, but hey, if you can make the playoffs with someone with as strange a throwing motion as Philip Rivers, then Wentz’s tendency to overstride and pigeon-toe shouldn’t be too much of an issue.

Lastly, the hero ball issue. Wentz likes to run around and find big plays. Early in his career, Wentz had receivers like DeSean Jackson and healthy Alshon Jeffery who could make those contested catches downfield consistently. But in Wentz’s more recent years, part of his struggles have come at the hands of his receiving corps being unable to catch those deep contested balls that Wentz loves to throw. You know who would be able to make those tough catches? Julio Jones.

Jones would not only open the field up for TY Hilton or Michael Pittman, but also give Wentz a reliable target — something that he’d been desperate for in his final years with Philly. The Colts are one of the most complete teams in the league, and if they had a star quarterback, there’s no doubt that they’d be right up there with Kansas City and Buffalo as the favorites in the AFC. Wentz has the capability to play incredible football. Jones goes a long way in helping Wentz find his long-lost 2017 form. He’s a perfect fit for Indianapolis.

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