At separate times this offseason, Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank has expressed his expectation that Julio Jones would remain with the club in 2021 but also said he wouldn't stand in the way if his new brass wanted to trade the star receiver.
It appears the Falcons are at least toying with the idea of trading the seven-time Pro Bowler.
NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported that Atlanta has received calls from teams inquiring about possible trades for Jones, per sources informed of the situation.
Any trade for Jones would not be executed before June 1 due to salary cap reasons -- after June 1, the Falcons could split up Jones' massive cap hit between 2021 and 2022. Atlanta could set up an agreement with a trade partner for future compensation and make the move official in June.
Monday's news meshes with what Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated and Peter King of NBC Sports reported in their weekly columns. Breer speculates it could take a first-round equivalent for the Falcons to move Jones, while King suggests a second-rounder might get it done.
When multiple smoke signals are sent out at once, it's no coincidence. Whether the Falcons are testing the waters to gauge fan reaction to the idea of moving on from Jones or attempting to create a market, the foundation for a potential trade has been laid.
Jones has been among the top receivers in the NFL since Atlanta made the big draft day move to acquire his services in 2011. However, with Jones coming off an injury-plagued season at 32 years old, questions are beginning to surface.
Atlanta's horrific cap situation could also be the impetus to making a trade.
While the Falcons restructured several veterans this offseason, including Matt Ryan, ensuring they'll stick around, they have yet to do so with Jones. The wideout has a $23 million cap hit in 2021 and a nearly $20 million hit the following two seasons. New GM Terry Fontenot could decide the timing is right to part with a legendary player if he believes Jones is on the back nine of his career.
Given that the trade wouldn't go down until after June 1, the Falcons could take time to gather the best offers. If a team strikes out upgrading its receiver corps in the draft, perhaps they'd be willing to part with future picks to secure a potential Hall of Fame-caliber receiver.