SEATTLE — If the Seattle Seahawks are going to land Julio Jones, it would have to look much like their 2019 trade for Jadeveon Clowney.
The Seahawks had their eyes on Clowney all summer but were never going to take on the massive salary he was set to make on the franchise tag. They acquired him on cut-down weekend only after the Houston Texans agreed to pay nearly half of what he was owed.
It would almost certainly take the Atlanta Falcons doing something similar with Jones in order for Seattle to acquire the seven-time Pro Bowl wide receiver. Problem is, all indications are that the Falcons have no interest in eating money in a Jones trade.
Actually, that’s one of a few issues that make Jones a long shot to end up in Seattle.
The Seahawks have discussed the possibility of a trade, as ESPN’s Dianna Russini reported. That should come as no surprise given their oft-stated philosophy of looking into every available deal. One team source described the Seahawks’ interest in Jones as just that — Seattle’s front office doing its usual due diligence.
Jones’ contract is an obvious roadblock. It has three years and more than $38 million remaining, including a $15.3 million salary for 2021.
Overthecap.com, Roster Management System and the NFLPA list the Seahawks with roughly $7 million in cap space, which doesn’t take into account the extension they just gave punter Michael Dickson. As always, some of their available funds are earmarked for their practice squad and injury replacements.
The Seahawks could free up several million dollars by restructuring Russell Wilson’s and/or Bobby Wagner’s contracts, but that would come with negative cap consequences down the road. It would be especially tricky in Wilson’s case, as converting salary to a signing bonus would push significant charges onto the back end of his contract, making him more expensive to tag or extend. Those deferred charges would add to the already whopping amount of dead money the Seahawks would take on if they were to trade him before then.
There’s a reason the Seahawks have rarely resorted to those types of restructures. They’ve used them only twice — in 2017 to facilitate trades for Sheldon Richardson and Duane Brown, high-priced additions spurred by injuries to Malik McDowell and George Fant. Richardson and Brown were needs, which is how the Seahawks justified the negative ramifications associated with the resulting restructures to the contracts of Wilson and Doug Baldwin.
On the other hand, Jones would be a luxury in a wide receiver corps that already has Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf and second-round pick D’Wayne Eskridge. The Seahawks just gave Lockett a $69 million extension that makes him the NFL’s 10th-highest-paid receiver in terms of annual average. Metcalf will be eligible for a megadeal of his own after this season.
And what if the 32-year-old Jones — who was limited to nine games last season and will likely have to be kept in maintenance mode from here on out — asks for a new deal as well?
There’s also the draft-pick compensation the Seahawks would have to give up. They parted with their 2022 first-round pick in the Jamal Adams trade, so they’re already missing high-end capital in what is expected to be a loaded draft.
Add it all up and this is a deal that will have to come to the Seahawks if it’s going to happen.
The worst-case scenario is that it comes to the San Francisco 49ers instead. That would mean Seattle having to face Jones twice a season with a suspect group of cornerbacks.
Which begs another question: Wouldn’t the Seahawks be better off spending resources to upgrade that position — the weakest on their roster — instead?
Maybe a strong market for Jones never materializes and the Falcons are forced to take on some of his salary. That would make a trade to Seattle much more realistic.
At this point, it’s a long shot. Then again, the Seahawks didn’t think they would land Clowney until they did.