The Falcons' stunning trade with Cleveland, in which they gave up a first-round pick -- among a lot of others -- to get from No. 27 to No. 6 overall in order to draft wide receiver Julio Jones, was an ambitious move that, more than anything, shows the Falcons are going for broke in 2011.
Atlanta finished an NFC best 13-3 last season but got dusted by Green Bay in the divisional round of the playoffs. Since then, the Falcons have put out an APB for an explosive playmaker. Price clearly was no object. The Falcons gave up draft picks that general manager Thomas Dimitroff typically holds valuable, but he inevitably decided they might not get Atlanta a player like Jones later in the draft.
Atlanta clearly thought next season's first rounder would be a low pick because they would do well and that the other later-round picks would be inconsequential. The Browns could parlay those picks into players that could get them competitive in a hurry, but that's not Dimitroff's concern.
He works for a demanding owner in Arthur Blank, who wants a Super Bowl championship in the worst way. Knowing that organization, Dimitroff was given the green light to go get what he needed to win now.
Blank was livid for weeks after the Falcons lost to Green Bay, especially watching the Packers' third and fourth receivers (Jordy Nelson and James Jones) look as good as their top two (Greg Jennings and Donald Driver). Other than Roddy White, they seriously don't have any other playmakers -- except maybe defensive end John Abraham and returner Eric Weems.
"Our expectation with this move is we believe Julio can come on to the football team and contribute from Day 1," Dimitroff told me Thursday night. "There are going to be growing pains like any rookie wide receiver. He's a true junior who is an incredibly competitive guy with a very hard-to-find skill set. He has a frame at 6-2, 220 and speed that's sub-4.4 (in the 40-yard dash).
"What he adds to our receiver group is an element of play-making explosiveness."
While this looks like a short-term glory move, let's dig a little deeper here. Has Peyton Manning really had much of a drop off without Marvin Harrison? Did Eli Manning's receiving corps fall apart after Plaxico Burress went to jail?
This move was also about fortifying Atlanta's receivers for the future so quarterback Matt Ryan can always have a threat. White turns 30 in November. Michael Jenkins turns 29 in June. Jones turned 22 in November. This move was done just as much for Ryan's productive longevity as it was for a short-term bounce.
In looking at how aggressive this move is, I'd fully expect Atlanta to be equally as aggressive in free agency, addressing their needs at defensive end and cornerback. I don't see them going after someone like Oakland's Nnamdi Asomugha in the secondary, but Vikings defensive end Ray Edwards could definitely be on the radar.
By giving up so much to get Jones, Jenkins, a former first-round draft pick wide receiver, was also put on notice. I don't think the Falcons would dump him just because they got Jones, but they could demote him if Jones shows up in camp and performs as well as he has in postseason workouts.
Getting Jones also gets the Falcons a massive, muscle-bound receiving corps that features White and future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez. Seriously, their receivers could out-pose the Spartans in "300."
Dimitroff and coach Mike Smith aren't big-splash guys and, if anything, stick to "the process," as they like to say. They tend not to force things. That's why such a huge sacrifice to land a rookie seems out of character.
But after three years of steady building around Ryan, and losing both playoff games they've been in with him, getting out of character might be just what the franchise needs.
Follow Steve Wyche on Twitter @wyche89