It’s the end of an era in Atlanta. This past Sunday, the Falcons traded superstar receiver Julio Jones and a 2023 sixth-round pick to the Titans in exchange for a 2022 second-round and a 2023 fourth-round pick. The two teams will confirm the deal following Jones’s physical, becoming official in the coming days.
Jones, 32 years old, will now play his 11th season for a team other than the Falcons. In 135 games during his legendary career in Atlanta, he caught 848 passes for 12,896 yards and 60 touchdowns. Julio has been one of the top wide receivers in the past decade, garnering two first-team All-Pro nods, seven Pro-Bowl appearances, and helping the Falcons reach the playoffs four times. He was out for seven games due to a hamstring injury during the 2020 season, which fell short of his lofty expectations and is now his final season in red and black.
The trade for Julio Jones was a positive on both sides
This trade was not as lopsided as it might seem. Both sides got some value. The Falcons, who are starting their rebuild, get future picks back and don’t have to pay as much money for Jones; The Titans get a star WR that brings their Super Bowl chances closer. They also fill a glaring need at receiver opposite AJ Brown, as both of their top pass catchers left in free agency a couple of months ago. Julio is also on the back end of his career and realistically has about 3-4 years left in his career. The Falcons, on the other hand, shouldn’t be too bad without Jones either, as Calvin Ridley looked like a true WR1, and first-round draft pick Kyle Pitts along with the other Falcon’s receivers, should see bigger roles in 2021 with Julio gone.
The Titans have built one of the most physical offenses in the NFL. Teams will either have to stack the boxes against Derrick Henry or get burned over the top by the new WR duo of Jones and Brown. Although Julio put up amazing numbers in Atlanta, there’s no guarantee that he’ll do the same in Tennessee. Over the past 3 seasons, Atlanta has been top 5 in passing attempts and pass plays called. Having a great quarterback in Matt Ryan his whole career also helped him a bit more than someone like Allen Robinson or Deandre Hopkins. I’m not saying that Julio is a bad player. He’s been a top wide receiver his entire career; I’m more concerned about Julio joining a run-first offense with a new OC and QB and in an offense with more mouths to feed. Julio will definitely elevate the 2021 Titans offense and add another threat for Ryan Tannehill.
What to expect in 2021
Although trading for a superstar wideout may make other teams immediate contenders, it does not improve the Titans’ defense. Their defense is primarily made up of raw young talent, with no clear standouts. Their journey to the top of the AFC includes going through Kansas City, Buffalo, and even Cleveland, all of which, in my opinion, have more complete rosters. Tennessee’s Super Bowl betting odds improved from 35-1 to 30-1, while their AFC odds improved from 18-1 to 15-1. Meanwhile, the Titans’ odds to win the AFC South rose from +120 to +110, tying them with the Indianapolis Colts. If the Titans’ defense steps up next year, and the already great offense continues to perform, they could be dark horse contenders in the AFC next season. If the defense struggles, expect them to compete for the AFC South but be a first-round exit.