Predicting Where Julio Jones Will Play in 2021

Julio Jones is trying to force his way out of Atlanta

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The NFL's all-time leader in receiving yardage per game is looking for a new home.

Five time all-pro, Julio Jones, stated on FS1's Undisputed earlier this week that he was "out" of Atlanta and that his only focus on where he wants to play next year includes winning. This corroborates with reports back in April as Ian Rapoport indicated the Falcons were receiving calls for their star receiver prior to the NFL Draft.

It's no surprise that Jones wants out considering the Falcons have only made the playoffs once since their Super Bowl appearance in 2016. Jones is 32 now and coming off a season where nagging injuries kept him off the field for all but nine games in 2020. In those games Jones caught 51 balls for 771 yards while adding three touchdowns. Having only reached double-digit touchdowns once in his career in 2012, the volume and yardage have always been Julio's strengths. A lack of availability would certainly hurt his chances to be a major contributor for any title-contender.

According to SportsLine, the teams with the best odds to land Jones are as follows as of May 28, 2021.

  • Patriots +200
  • 49ers +300
  • Titans +400
  • Raiders +600
  • Ravens +700
  • Chargers +900
  • Colts +1000
  • Packers +1200
  • Dolphins +1400
  • Jaguars +1500
  • Cowboys +2000

The theoretical talk about where Julio will go has been fun. But as we approach June 1 the situation is going to get real, and most experts believe we'll see a trade sooner than later. If it weren't for the fact that Atlanta is in such a bad salary cap situation, the organization and GM Terry Fontenot, may have tried to salvage the relationship as we're seeing the Packers attempting to do with Aaron Rodgers. But as it stands Atlanta isn't going to be able to sign their own draft class to contracts as they only have around $340K in available cap.

By trading Jones after June 1 the Falcons will only take on a dead cap hit of $7.75 million, saving them $15.3 million if dealt before that date. The Patriots (+200) have jumped up the oddsmaker's list and are now sitting as the favorites to land Julio. The check all the boxes you would want checked if you're the Falcons front office.

They have a first round pick they can send, which is something the Falcons have made clear is an important piece. They are coming off a season where it doesn't appear giving them Jones in a trade would be enough to push them to winning the Super Bowl. Finally they're in the AFC, and teams rarely like to trade stars within their own conference.

The Patriots are in pseudo-rebuild mode. They're doing a lot of things to set a new foundation for the future (Mac Jones) but have aggressively spent money in free agency this offseason and bringing back Cam Newton means that Bill Belichick saw enough that he liked to run it back. Bringing in Julio to line up outside with Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry in double tight end sets allows the Pats to continue to let Cam take off on designed run calls. Now that I'm thinking this out, maybe trading Julio to the Patriots does make them a Super Bowl contender.

Another great landing spot for Jones would be in San Fran and they have the second best odds (+300) to do so. The selection of Trey Lance indicates the team is ready to move on from Jimmy Garoppolo and they can save $25 million by simply cutting him after June 1. That would mean it would be very easy for them to take on Jones' salary, but the question is whether the Falcons would want to send their disgruntled star to an NFC power house.

Although the Ravens (+700) aren't one of the favorites to trade for Julio, they should be making calls to Atlanta. Baltimore drafted Rashod Bateman and Tylan Wallace in the draft to help bolster the group and Sammy Watkins signed with the team in the offseason. Hollywood Brown is an okay B-level Tyreek Hill.

But the team is going to have to pay Lamar Jackson and their championship window on his rookie deal runs out after this season. The fifth year option has already been exercised and while that means that Lamar will still be a Raven in 2022, the $1.8 million cap hit in 2021 jumps to just over $23 million next year. That makes the Ravens cap situation for bringing in Jones murky taking into consideration Lamar's contract increase.

The last team that is just fun to consider before that June date is if the Packers front office actually did something good, and figured out a way to get Julio Jones to Green Bay (+1,200). Now this situation is not only highly unlikely, it's virtually impossible. GM Brian Gutekunst has put the team in a very unfavorable cap situation for next season, and they only boast around $5 million in available cap now while still needing to sign draft picks.

But it's about the only way I see Aaron Rodgers willingly playing football for the Packers next season. It would be pretty tough to walk away from a duo of Davante Adams and Julio Jones, even though it may mean they would be losing an important defensive piece or Aaron Jones in an attempt to match up contracts in a potential deal with Atlanta.

The image of Julio donning the Falcons helmet with the jet black visor will always be the way I'll remember him, but it's apparent that it won't be how we'll see him ending his career. We should have a better idea of who the serious bidders are for the receiver's services by mid next week.

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