After weeks of speculation regarding his next playing destination, multiple players getting creative to convince Julio Jones to come play for their respective squads, and a viral phone call that all but confirmed his desire to be traded, Julio has now found a new team to call home.
Julio Jones is now a Tennessee Titan.
If you’ve followed along with the Julio Jones trade rumor mill saga, you’ll know that the Titans have been one of the teams, if the not the team most connected to landing Julio. Outside of A.J. Brown, the wide receiver situation looks sapped of proven talent, consistency, and the reliability a contending team wants at this stage of their contending window.
Take that situation and add it to Julio’s desire to win instead of wasting what few unknown high level years he has left with a likely middling Falcons team, and you get a player-team match that’s about as textbook as it can get.
What kept this trade from coming to fruition even sooner was the fact that the Falcons needed to wait for a specific day to process the trade.
Pesky, pesky salary cap trouble.
Atlanta is about as knee deep in cap quick sand as you can get, so much so that that they’ve been trying to maneuver the cap just so they can create enough room to sign their 2021 draft class. They could’ve found a way to offload other cap hits that are plaguing their cap situation, Matt Ryan’s big contract was an early candidate to support this method of thinking, but instead they wanted to ship away their aging All-Pro wide receiver and his big cap number along with him.
The only real obstacles that were in the way of that were teams refusing to fully absorb Julio’s big cap number, along with a June 1st date that signified a starting point for a true intensification of negotiations.
Atlanta would’ve been left with $23.25M in dead money in 2021 if they traded Jones before June 1st, compared to a measly $7.75M if a trade was processed after June 1st . That’s $15.5M in cap savings for the 2021 season , a number that was enticing enough to the Falcons front office to put all their chips on the table and truly go through with this league changing transaction.
So Falcons GM Terry Fontenot waited until the time was right, sorted through whatever offers he received over the course of this process, and selected the Titans as Julio’s next playing destination.
With all that in mind, let’s discuss all the ins and outs of this blockbuster trade.
What Jon Robinson Gave Up
Talks surrounding how much any team would have to give up for Julio have been plentiful. Whether it was a first round pick the Falcons were desperately searching for, or even a mid round pick interested teams have been throwing into conversations, it was always going to be interesting to see what amount of draft capital would be exchanged for the future Hall of Famer.
We now have our answer, and it’s a second round pick as a “center piece” according to Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated.
Early reactions to the compensation?
Pretty much what everyone expected any team to give up in this sort of situation. Julio would’ve made a dent on any team’s cap situation wherever he was traded to, plus he’s on the wrong side of 30, and he’s a big time injury risk.
I like this deal for the Titans and I really commend Jon Robinson for holding his ground.
The Money Situation
Another potential snag for any Julio Jones deal was how much of Julio’s contract the final team would eat. It was a topic discussed throughout the entirety of the saga, since Julio’s age and injury history cause some teams to hesitate on taking the remaining brunt of Julio’s contract.
With the Titans taking on the remaining money on Julio’s deal, attention will now be shifted towards the front office, and what moves they’ll make to create enough room to add on all of the extra cash.
Broadway’s own Mike Herndon detailed a potential way for the Titans to do so in a recent article, citing a simple Ryan Tannehill restructure as a way for the team to create the necessary cap room to safely handle the rest of Julio’s guaranteed money in 2021.
They could also combine a Tannehill restructure with a Derrick Henry restructure, or even a restructure of Kevin Byard’s deal to add additional room for 2021 if they desired. Any other restructuring business aside from Tannehill would hurt the team’s cap situation beyond 2021, so a move like that probably isn’t in the cards.
But it’s still an option that can be presented if necessary.
Where Julio Jones Fits in The Titans’ Offense
When you begin to discuss where Julio might fit in with this Titans offense, there’s virtually zero doubt as to what he’s going to be asked to do.
He’s not going to come in and take over the WR1 role. That belongs to A.J. Brown due to his ascension as a player, his importance to the offense as a whole, and Brown’s on field performance being a bit better than Julio’s at the moment. But Julio’s “demotion” in terms of role won’t be too substantial, since the wide receiver spots farther down the pecking order remains full of unproven talent and questions.
|Titans Wide Receiver Depth Chart With Julio Jones|
|Dez Fitzpatrick (Rookie)|
Now even though Julio would likely drop down to a traditional WR2 role here in Nashville, I’d personally bet on him being more of a 1B option in this offense opposed to A.J. Brown’s 1A role.
Julio has fought through a number of injuries over the course of the past few seasons, most notably a hamstring injury that limited him to just nine games of actions in the 2020 season. These string of injuries have led many to question whether the Julio’s high level play has met its end, whether Julio is just an injury prone, aging wide receiver that shouldn’t be depended on too much going forward.
But that’s far from the case.
Julio might not have the same gamebreaking speed or or athleticism that has been put in the spotlight so many times throughout his decorated career.
But he’s still a very efficient receiver that has the smarts to run every single route in the book.
When you add a player with those specific positives, pressure can be taken off the grind of the run game, and other receivers that would’ve been tasked with more significant workloads had Julio not been traded to Tennessee. Josh Reynolds, Dez Fitzpatrick, Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, and even Anthony Firkser are all players that were expected to handle more snaps and responsibilities before the Julio trade.
Some of those added responsibilities are still there even after the Julio trade, specifically Firkser considering his status as the main receiving threat at the tight end position.
But for Reynolds, Fitzpatrick, and even Westbrook-Ikhine, it’s more of a return to normalcy in terms of expectations, responsibility, and snap count. Reynolds was the one guy destined for a guaranteed upgrade when it came to role and responsibility.
Now, he can rotate in for this offense whenever they roll with their three wide receiver sets, and even take advantage of the extra attention Brown, Jones, and even Derrick Henry command when they’re on the field at the same time.
New offensive coordinator Todd Downing is getting a bit of a reprieve as well.
He was given an almost impossible task to maintain this offense’s integrity while also juggling the concerns surrounding the pass catchers. With Julio now in town, Downing can breathe a sigh of relief and fully put his focus towards him putting his personal stamp on this offense.
Tennessee’s Status as a Team Now & Moving Forward
With Corey Davis and Jonnu Smith departing in free agency, and no significant draft capital used towards addressing the wide receiver position, this Titans offense was going to be in big trouble if it went into the season with its current group of pass catchers.
Josh Reynolds has too much unpredictability to his name to trust him as a WR2, the other spots in the wide receiver pecking order are either full of questions of talent just not good enough to consistently threaten defenses, and Anthony Firkser wasn’t going to be able to handle the idea of fully replacing the skillset of Jonnu Smith.
But now with a weapon like Julio Jones now roaming the Titans sideline as a legitimate weapon, those same worries can be somewhat put to bed. Aside from that, this move now becomes the Titans’ big time counter punch to the moves Indianapolis made in the off-season.
The Colts went to work over the last few months, adding Carson Wentz and a number of other expected contributors on the defensive side of the ball.
When your main competition pulls off a number of eye opening transactions like that, you have to be ready to counter, ready to pout your own chest up and announce that you’re still here.
This move is THE counter, THE move for the Titans to announce that they’re still here.
And what a counter it is.
*More soon on the addition of Julio Jones*