By now, you’ve all heard the phone call in which Shannon Sharpe surreptitiously got Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones to admit he wants to get out of Atlanta and be traded to another team.
While Eagles cornerback Darius Slay is trying to recruit Jones to Philadelphia, general manager Howie Roseman has a decision to make. Adding a player of Jones’ caliber would almost certainly make the offense better, but if they want him, it will likely take one of their two first round picks next season to land him, or perhaps the pick the Eagles received from the Colts, which could either be a second rounder or a first rounder, depending on Carson Wentz’ performance with the Colts in ‘21.
Should the Eagles pull the trigger? Here are the “pros” to doing the deal.
Julio Jones Is Still Talented
In nine games last year, Jones caught 51 of 68 targets for 771 yards and 3 TDs. He averaged 15.1 yards per reception, his highest number since 2017, and his 85.7 yards receiving per game would still have ranked first on the Eagles last season among all pass catchers (Dallas Goedert led the Birds with 47.6 and Travis Fulgham led all wide receivers at 41.5). When he was on the field, he was still really stinking good.
Helps Develop Jalen Hurts
If the Eagles are going to make the postseason in 2021, they’re going to need Hurts to make the same kind of leap that Donovan McNabb made following his rookie season in 1999. McNabb was quite simply one of the five best football players in the league in 2000, his first full season, after getting the chance to start toward the end of this rookie year, and Hurts’ ascension to the starting role last year occurred in much the same time frame. Hurts will need to be outstanding if the Birds are going to compete this season, and one of the ways they can ensure that happens is to bring on a stud veteran receiver to help him. Of course, it would be the height of irony if Howie Roseman were to do something like this for Hurts after refusing to do so for Carson Wentz during his tenure in Philadelphia.
Gives the Eagles a Potentially Elite Offense
With Julio Jones and DeVonta Smith on the outside and Jalen Reagor hopefully improved as a slot receiver in his second year, the receiving corps would suddenly give opposing secondaries something to think about. Dallas Goedert, when healthy, is an elite receiving tight end, and Miles Sanders, again when healthy, is a dual-threat runner and pass catcher out of the backfield. Coupled with a veteran offensive line that, when healthy (sensing a pattern here?), could be solid, the addition of Jones might give the Eagles one of the better offenses in the NFC, and one that is potentially as good as Dallas’ in the NFC East.
Would Generate Excitement Among the Fanbase
The last time Eagles fans were excited about this football team was when the Birds beat the Cowboys in Week 16 of the 2019 NFL season at Lincoln Financial Field, a win that essentially secured the NFC East. Since then, fans have had nothing to get riled up about. There is no juice surrounding the 2021 Eagles, no energy. The fanbase has soured on the franchise. Apathy is the word du rigeuer. Landing Jones would be the most exciting thing to happen to the Eagles since that victory against Dallas two seasons ago, a factor Jeff Lurie might consider as the Linc will be at full capacity this coming season.
Take Advantage of a Weaker NFC East
While Washington has improved itself substantially this off-season and the return of Dak Prescott should certainly give the Cowboys a dynamic offense, this is still a division that is ripe for the taking. No one finished with a winning record last season and the addition of Jones would likely give the Eagles as good a shot as the Giants or Cowboys to challenge Washington for the division title. And hey, once you reach the postseason, who knows what can happen, right?
So there are the five “pros” to trading for Julio Jones. Here are the five “cons.”
Losing a QB Trade Chip
One of the calculations any team in a rebuilding cycle must make is how much of their future assets they should hold onto and when it’s time to use some of those chips to make a splash in the here and now. Are the Eagles in a position where they can give up one of their two sure-fire first rounders or their Colts pick to trade for Jones? Generally speaking, when a team is rebuilding, they want to plan for the future, and with potentially three first round picks at their disposal next year, Roseman can use that capital to either trade for a superstar QB next off-season, trade up to draft one of his choosing, or spend all those draft picks on three highly talented young players in the draft.
For a team with a number of holes and a talent deficit, holding onto that capital seems to make more sense, given Jones is unlikely to make the Birds a Super Bowl contender.
Risk that Jones’ Age is Catching Up to Him
Jones will be 32 this year and, for the first time since 2013, failed to play at least 14 games in a season. When he was healthy, he was still his dominant self, but only playing nine games at least has to raise some red flags. Jones has entered a tricky time in his career, a time when many players start to slip quickly. It doesn’t take much for an elite talent like Jones to lose a step in his early 30s, although we’ve also seen wideouts perform well deep into their 30s. Regardless, there is a risk his age is catching up with him.
Salary Cap Issues
Jones is currently set to earn $15.3 million next year and any team that trades for him will have to take that on. The Eagles are currently $3.72 million under the cap, according to Over The Cap, and would need to clear salary in order to get Julio in under the number. This is why a trade of Zach Ertz is so important. Removing his $12.7 million cap hit would give the Birds juuuuuuuust enough room to get Julio in but would leave them precious little space to make other additions.
Means Holes at Other Positions Are Ignored
And that means no more help for the cornerbacks or safety positions, two spots of great need still for the Birds. They’ve done a good job bringing in some linebacker help and offensive line depth, and for that, Roseman is to be commended. But the secondary remains a weak point, and it might make more sense for him to use any salary cap flexibility he gets from trading Ertz for players who might be able to help stop wide receivers.
Jones Wants To Play For a Winner
Julio Jones has said he wants to play for a winner. At 32, he knows his NFL career is not endless, and this may be his last high-impact season at wideout. Would he be happy in Philadelphia, playing with a QB in his first full season, on a team that may not win 6 games?
For my money, it’s not the right time for the Eagles to give up one of those precious first round picks for a player who will not make them a Super Bowl contender. Jones is a special talent and landing him would certainly be exciting, but it would be a shortsighted move, given where the Eagles are in their current winning cycle.
Should the Eagles do what it takes to trade for Julio Jones?
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