We've seen a lot of chaos in the NFL this offseason, between the very serious legal situation surrounding Deshaun Watson, Aaron Rodgers' potential breakup with the Green Bay Packers, and other big moves and rumors floating out there. Bubbling under the surface on a national level, is the potential that the Atlanta Falcons move on from Julio Jones, one of the best wide receivers of the last decade in the league.
The Falcons had the chance to signal a full-on rebuild at last month's NFL Draft. With the No. 4 pick, they could have taken Georgia native Justin Fields as the quarterback of the future. Alabama's Mac Jones also remained on the board.
Instead, Atlanta chose to bolster Matt Ryan's offensive arsenal, adding tight end Kyle Pitts out of Florida, one of the most dangerous weapons we've seen at the position. He joins Calvin Ridley, coming off of a 1,374 yard, nine touchdown season, and another very productive tight end in Hayden Hurst. It is not totally clear whether Jones will still be in the mix this fall though.
Ahead of the draft, general manager Terry Fontenot admitted that the team is in a precarious salary cap situation, with less than $1 million in space before they have to sign Pitts and the rest of their picks. When asked about Jones' future, he admitted that the team has to listen to and weigh any offer and "determine what's best for the organization." A Julio Jones trade after June 1 could save over $15 million in space this season, which could really help the team dig out of its hole, albeit at a significant price. Matt Ryan may also have a tough time coming to terms with what it would mean to lose his favorite weapon.
Matt Ryan was the No. 3 pick in the 2008 NFL Draft out of Boston College. Three years later, Julio Jones was taken No. 6 overall, and his impact was apparent from the start. Ryan was the league's MVP in 2016, and has four Pro Bowls to his name. Jones is a five-time All-Pro, with two first team selections in 2015-16, and three second-team selections from 2017-19. He also led the league in receiving yards in 2015 and 2018, and in receptions in 2015. From 2014-2019, Jones put up at least 1,394 receiving yards and no fewer than 83 receptions every single season, topping out with a crazy 136 catch, 1,871 yard 2015 season. He missed seven games this past season, but still managed a respectable 51/771/3 season. [
Matt Ryan on what an offense without Julio Jones would look like: "I don't know."
Said he didn't want to go down a hypothetical road but...
"He's probably impacted my career more significantly than any other player."
— Michael Rothstein (@mikerothstein) May 18, 2021