Tennessee have agreed to a deal with Atlanta for seven-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Julio Jones, allowing the Falcons to clear salary cap space while the Titans get help for Ryan Tannehill, Derrick Henry and AJ Brown. Both teams confirmed the trade on Sunday.
The Falcons will receive the Titans’ second-round pick in 2022 and their fourth in 2023 with Atlanta sending Jones and a sixth-round pick in 2023 to Tennessee pending Jones passing a physical.
The deal adds Jones to an offense than already has Henry, the AP NFL Offensive Player of the Year, and a Pro Bowl receiver in Brown. The defending AFC South champs ranked fourth in scoring in 2020, and this move shores up a big hole in the Titans’ offense after losing wide receiver Corey Davis and tight end Jonnu Smith in free agency in March.
“J Rob is a gangster!! The man is crushing it!” left tackle Taylor Lewan wrote of Tennessee general manager Jon Robinson on Twitter. Tannehill quickly approved of the move, “Let’s go!!!!!”
Henry, who also played at Alabama in college like Jones, had recently shared photos of himself working out with Jones on social media. Brown had been lobbying hard for Jones to join the Titans on social media, and Brown shared a photo on Twitter on Sunday of himself, Jones and Henry all in Tennessee jerseys celebrating.
Los Angeles Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey also went to social media to express his feelings that his team missed out on Jones.
The Falcons shared a video of Jones on social media and wrote, “Because of you, 11 will always mean more.”
Jones’ $15.3m base salary is guaranteed, and he was set to cost the Falcons slightly more than $23m against the salary cap next season. By trading him after 1 June, they now split the dead money over two seasons, easing their tough financial situation.
And now the Titans have a wide receiver costing less in 2021 than if they had picked up the fifth-year option at $15.6m for Davis, who signed with the Jets.
Jones holds Atlanta records with 848 catches for 12,896 yards, and his 60 touchdowns ranked second. He had a career-best 136 catches for 1,871 yards in 2015. He had six straight seasons with more than 1,300 yards receiving until being limited to nine games in 2020 by a nagging hamstring injury. He ranks first in NFL history in averaging 95.5 receiving yards per game through 135 games, ahead of Calvin Johnson’s mark of 86.1 receiving yards per game.
Jones also is 20th in receiving yards and fourth behind only Jerry Rice (76), Randy Moss (64) and Marvin Harrison (59) for 100-yard receiving games with 58. Only Moss has a higher average per reception (15.6) than Jones (15.2) among all NFL players with at least 848 catches.
The Titans have five straight winning seasons that rank behind only Seattle and Kansas City in the NFL. They lost to Kansas City in the AFC championship game in the 2019 season. Tennessee tied Buffalo for second with 396.4 yards per game in 2020 with Tannehill throwing for a career-best 33 touchdowns. Only the Kansas City Chiefs had more yards on offense, but Jones could help a passing offense that ranked 23rd in the NFL with 228.3 yards per game.
This is just the latest big deal by Robinson since being hired as general manager in January 2016. Robinson traded the No 1 overall pick in April 2016, and he also traded for Tannehill in March 2019 in a deal where Miami picked up a big chunk of the quarterback’s salary.
Robinson and the team signed both Tannehill and Henry, the NFL’s back-to-back rushing leader, to four-year extensions last year. And Brown, the other big piece of the Titans’ offense, has two years left on his rookie contract.