The Atlanta Falcons are in an interesting position. They still have one of the most talented offenses in the NFL. QB Matt Ryan is still one of the best passers in the league while Julio Jones remains an elite wide receiver. Calvin Ridley is one of the NFL’s best young playmakers and will only improve in 2021.
Despite all that firepower, the Falcons have just not been a very good team the last few seasons. After falling short in Super Bowl 51 against the New England Patriots, the Falcons have had just one season with a winning record.
They also find themselves playing in an incredibly tough division, which got harder last season when Tom Brady decided to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Falcons could go one of two ways. They could either push all their chips into the middle and make another run at the playoffs or trade their stars for assets and rebuild the team.
If they decide to go the second route, the Falcons could shop Julio Jones to see what teams will offer for the receiver. It would certainly be a blockbuster deal if they decided to pull the trigger. Let’s take a look at both sides of the equation to see whether Atlanta should seriously consider moving the franchise’s greatest wide receiver.
Why the Atlanta Falcons should keep Julio Jones
Dominique. Chipper. There are few players in Atlanta sports history who fans could refer to by their first name, and have everyone instantly know who they were referring to. Julio is in that category.
He is closing in on 13,000 receiving yards and 1,000 receptions with the Falcons and is a future Hall of Famer. Moving a legend is always difficult for a fan base, and seeing Jones shipped to another organization would be a tough pill to swallow.
Another reason to keep Julio in Atlanta is that he’s still among the best receivers in the NFL. He struggled with a hamstring injury last season and was only limited to nine games. Jones still averaged over 15 yards per catch and while he might be past his peak, at 32 years old, he’s not over the hill by any means.
Why the Atlanta Falcons should trade Julio Jones
The Falcons aren't trending towards being a competitive team in 2021. Matt Ryan is another year older, and the Falcons have yet to replace the rushing production they got from Devonta Freeman.
Additionally, the Buccaneers and Saints should still be very formidable in 2021, making the road back to the playoffs for the Falcons an uphill climb. To that end, they should try to get a jump on retooling their roster now by considering a trade for their WR1. Jones has also been a team-first guy in his career and would be an attractive addition to contenders looking for a deep threat.
There’s also a case to be made that the ascension of Calvin Ridley could help soften the blow of a Jones trade. Ridley is only 26 years old and has blossomed into a tremendous player.
It remains to be seen whether Ridley will have the same success if defenses were not keyed in on Jones, but it might be a gamble the Falcons are willing to take. Adam Thielen still had a great season in 2020 without Stefon Diggs, so Ridley’s talent may be enough to carry the Falcons' passing attack.