Would the Falcons be better off without Julio Jones?

It would be hard seeing this man walk away, I admit. (Curtis Compton/AJC photo)

It would be hard seeing this man walk away, I admit. (Curtis Compton/AJC photo)

Today’s AJC features something I thought I’d never write: The suggestion that the Atlanta Falcons might be better off without Julio Jones than with him. And not because he’s a bad player. (He’s a great player.) Because he’s a great player at a position where greatness isn’t required.

For the sake of this exercise, let’s say that the NFL’s five best receivers are (in alphabetical order) Antonio Brown, Dez Bryant, Calvin Johnson, Jones and Demaryius Thomas. Let’s toss in A.J. Green, DeSean Jackson and Jordy Nelson for good measure, and let’s add Larry Fitzgerald for old times’ sake. Know how many playoff games were won this postseason by the teams employing those nine men? Two.

It would be hard seeing this man walk away, I admit. (Curtis Compton/AJC photo)

It would be hard seeing this man walk away, I admit. (Curtis Compton/AJC photo)

The Seattle Seahawks came within a yard of consecutive Super Bowl titles without having a 1,000-yard receiver either year. The New England Patriots won the Super Bowl without a 1,000-yard wideout. Know how many wide receivers had 1,000-yard seasons in 2014? Twenty-one.

Jones’ contract is set to lapse after the 2015 season. New coach Dan Quinn, who has “final say” over the roster if not personnel, has said he wants to “celebrate greatness,” which would seem to mean he’s in favor of an extension. I’d be in favor of an extension, too — if the Falcons weren’t so wretched just about everywhere else.

The Falcons have tried the win-it-all-with-skill-people route, and it hasn’t quite worked. Thomas Dimitroff’s two highest draft picks were spent on Matt Ryan and Jones, and both have exceeded expectations. Two of his biggest acquisitions via trade/free agency were Michael Turner and Tony Gonzalez, both of whom did what they were hired to do. (Steven Jackson hasn’t.) The result was that the Falcons skewed toward finesse, and after five winning season the lack of heft caught up with them.

Were all things equal, I’d never suggest the Falcons should think about trading Jones or letting him leave as a free agent. But they’ve become a lousy team — 11-22 over the past two seasons — with an awful defense and an offensive line that got a bit better under Mike Tice (who left for Oakland) in part because it could get no worse. On such a team, a high-salaried wide receiver is a luxury item. In a league where a hard salary cap forces difficult roster choices ever offseason, can the Falcons afford to celebrate luxury?

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203 comments
Arkansas_Transplant
Arkansas_Transplant

Personally, I'd like to see them trade Julio to the Raiders for picks 4 and 36 this year and possibly the 2nd and/or 3rd next season. Clearly this team is lacking in multiple spots and the only way they are going to improve over the whole is to acquire more picks. At 4 we could take either Fowler or Beasley and then add either Cooper or White in the 8th spot if we decided to replace Julio this season otherwise grab quality like Scherff or Collins. There's still some pretty good options on the FA list that could help fill Julio's void, not to mention the cost savings. hose guys could immediately contribute and the turn around to a dominate club could be shortened. There's options like Crabtree, Jennings or Nicks still out there. Then we'd still have 2 high picks in the second if we wanted to package one in some type of trade to move back into the late first round and possibly grab Gurly if he's still there come number 20 or later. I'd hate to see Julio go, but I'd gladly trade him if it meant we'd add 3 of this list, Beasley/Fowler/Cooper/White/Scherff/Gurly. That would be a pretty loaded haul to build the future on, not to mention the high pick in the 2nd.

Delbert_D
Delbert_D

I think so, as I did the same for Roddy White last offseason. There should be some good value in trade for Jones at positions of need. Also, I would like the Falcons to trade down out of the 8th spot. It is a big gamble for them to try to get a good pass rusher from the candidates that will be available. More picks is the answer, and serious tryouts among them to see who will be keepers. If I were forced with a gun at my head to keep the 8th pick I'd pick Brandon Scherff if he is available. Otherwise, go ahead and shoot me.

etherdome
etherdome

Rumors are circulating that JJ's agent is looking for a contract that will pay him $15million/year.  If that is the case, then I would trade him.  


I like Mr. Jones, and I think that he is a premier WR on the rise.  I just don't want to see the franchise tie up an enormous amount of cap space on a player that can not impact the game to the degree that a QB can.  Like I mentioned, I like Julio Jones, but not to the tune of 15.  


Let's hope that the rumors are off base.  

BigGAdawg
BigGAdawg

Bradley, if this is the best idea you can punch into your keyboard, then you should take a hammer and smash your fingers.  Did you spend too much time watching the Braves off-season?  Do you really think the key to winning is to trade away top talent?  

Arkansas_Transplant
Arkansas_Transplant

@BigGAdawg You might want to go back and study history on how Dallas built that dynasty during the 90's. It was done through trading a top talent to acquire multiple draft slots. It has and always will be the best way to build a dominate dynasty. It takes multiple talents, not just one or two and the only way you're going to be able to do that.... the draft, not free agents or overpaying to retain your one or two only talents. 

WishWeStillHadHockeyHere
WishWeStillHadHockeyHere

When Jones was in the draft, I was shocked and disappointed that Atlanta traded up to get him.  Back then we had good receivers and a shoddy defense.  To me, he seemed like a hood ornament.  Still, as a Falcon, I thought he was great: classy and talented.  Now, however, the chickens have come home to roost, Bobby Boucher, and the emperor has no clothes. No pass rush, either.  I think you're right Bradley.

anothercomment
anothercomment

The problems all started with the overpayment of Matt Ryan. Matt Ryan is not an Elite coordibaxk. He was 9/26. That is not Elite. Why is he making more money than Brady? And other Elite quarterbacks. . They stripped the team of veteran players to pay for Ryan's over paid contract. if Ryan was elite Harry Douglas could have been a solid 1 or 2 receiver. That was proven when Julio was out.

julio's foot fractures will just continue. I have a 15 year old who has already broken her 5 the metatarsal 3 times, one foot twice and first metatarsal once. In the last 5 years, the doctor told me some people who have multiple fractures of their foot bones just have this inherent weakness.

AnsweredTHIS
AnsweredTHIS

Rubbish! Don't even think about trading him! You think Ryan has problems now?

TNScott
TNScott

Anyone with any common sense would trade Julio for draft picks. He was injury-prone while he was in college, and it's been the same since he's been here. He has missed almost a full season due to injuries. He will be out of the league within another 4 years anyway. Once you start having foot problems, it's just a matter of time just ask Patrick Willis or Chipper Jones. Foot problems can also eventually cause other issues in the entire leg including ankles, knees and hips. The surface he plays on will not add to the longevity of his career, either. Throwing away draft picks on a WR who couldn't stay healthy in college was ridiculous. Extending his contract now would be the height of insanity.

Ackshun
Ackshun

uh no.... you don't right the ship by moving the hole from port to starboard.

WaltBBall
WaltBBall

Julio Jones will be evaluated in the pre-season and if they have a shot at the playoffs.  The foot problem will let everyone know if the surgery which added a larger screw holds up.  The receiver to trade for draft picks and that's getting to the trade deadline with teams who are in contention for a playoff position who has lost a number two and in some cases a number one wide out is Roddy.  Julio Jones foot hold up and he will be re-signed before the season ends.

Roddy is valuable as a 1 or 2 if he stays healthy for the season.  The FALCONS have a lot of options.  I remember receivers by the name of Jerry Rice, Lynn Swan, and other greats who were critical in breaking the spirit of defenses, hell, we have watched Roddy and Gonzalez 4-5 yard the offense down the field on numerous occasions.

We have witnessed what Ryan can do if he gets time to throw, there have been far more drops than errant throws.  Matty Ice would set records if he could get a consistent 5 secs to throw, with dropped passes and a swiss cheese offensive line Matt's stats are damn good.  The passing game is too important, in my opinion a superstar w/o pays off at the right time, it may not be a 1000 yard season but it is definitely the big catch that keeps the drive alive.

The upcoming season could be something special, if healthy Julio will put on a spectacular show and the FALCONS will pay the young man because he will dominate double coverage.  Coach Quinn can add some solid defensive pieces to the "D" as in LB's who can pass rush, he is going for speed and power(athletically gifted) individuals who has a particular strength, it reminds one of DF and coach Bud's mindset for team chemistry.

GO FALCONS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Dman
Dman

Let's face the facts folks, if the Falcons had not had all of those injuries to so many starters on Offense and Defense over the last two seasons, we would have remained a playoff team, Mike Smith would still be our coach, and TD would look like a genius GM. Who knows, we might have won a few playoff games too. Now ney sayers will say TD should have built up the backups because that's how other teams stay in the season race for the playoffs throughout the season. Oh well, two years later here we are rebuilding. We still have some great building blocks as many experts see us as the team who could have a quick turn around this season because of those building blocks. I'm looking forward to free agency and the draft. We should be a better team in 2015.

SeanLB
SeanLB

@Dman In that case, I'm thrilled that the injuries happened.  Mike Smith doesn't have the killer instinct necessary to win a title.  

TreeRollins
TreeRollins

Yes, the Falcons spend a fortune on their receivers! They far overpaid for Roddy White in this is why they had to get rid of Harry Douglas who I think is a better option now than Roddy was. And now they're going to spend a fortune on Julio Jones? The personnel decisions just aren't adding up.

斯科特 · 格里尔 Scott Grier
斯科特 · 格里尔 Scott Grier

While Julio hasn't lived up to his potential the Falcons gave up a lot  to get him so it would be stupid to let him go . I believe the new coach and staff will lite a new fire under Julio and he will become the player that we all though he could be.

FreeAgentFan
FreeAgentFan

@vesaversa 


For all the talk of what the Falcons gave up to get Julio -- Cleveland did not do much with the picks they gave up


The way Dummytroff has drafted he could have very well flopped with those picks like Cleveland did


At least Julio is an above average and sometimes great player

peanutgallery
peanutgallery

The Falcons didn't lose because of Julio.


You let him walk if you can find better for less in free agency. Julio is far from that point.


You trade him only if you are getting good value back in return.

SeanLB
SeanLB

Plenty of cap room to keep Julio long-term.  Instead, turn your attention to guys who DON'T produce like William Moore, Sean Weatherspoon, Sam Baker, Kroy Biermann, etc.


Yeah, we'd be better without one of our few GREAT players.  What kind of article is this?  

DarlaLewis
DarlaLewis

No- simply because you have to game plan for Julio Jones. No other wide receiver on that team get's that attention. It's not Julio that's the problem. It's the Kroy Bierman and the Sam Bakers and Ray Edwards that are the problem. Besides Matt Ryan could help this team out if there's a cap problem.

Big Wally
Big Wally

Teams playing for Super Bowls don't invest huge sums of money into wide receivers.  Teams playing for Super Bowls don't trade 5 draft picks for wide receivers.

Big Wally
Big Wally

Basically, the Falcons would have been better off, if they would have just done the opposite of whatever Dimitroff wanted.  Yea, that deserves a promotion.

Bug
Bug

Dimitroff would have blown the picks if we had kept them anyway.


the team with the most difference makers win 9 times out of 10.


after 7 years of review I would say that we would have been better off to trade the entire draft to get into the top 5 "Every Year" because that is the only way Dimitroff would have picked a difference maker anyway.   


He does not have a clue.


I could sit my 6 year old down and show her Scouts top 100, show her which players are gone and which are available.


I guarantee you she would pick a player as good or better than Dimitroff "EVERY TIME".


The guy is a glorified grounds keeper with as much ability to pick NFL talent than my dog "Ralph".


Just look at the team that walked off the field after Carolina decided to stop humping them.


He is and Has been stealing checks for years now and Blank is a clown even for letting him stick around to bring him coffee when he snaps his fingers.


He single handedly got Smith fired and ruined the team for years to come.


The circus monkeys are running the circus in Falcon Land.....sad but true..  

notPlanB
notPlanB

Had TD not moved up like he has done so many times, we wouldn't be having this conversation. We could have gotten a decent WR with our regular 1st round pick and saved that other 1st round, 2nd round and (2) 4th round picks. We could say those picks would have given us more depth but the same problem exist in that theory too. Look who would have been making those picks. TD TD   TD.

patriotdog
patriotdog

First, let me say this is a good article, MB. After your opinion on Ferry I didn't think I'd ever agree with you again.

Secondly, when readers disagree with each other, why does it always devolve into name calling, insults, etc...

it's like watching Chris Matthews or Bill Maher.

Third, Julio is a luxury and if Ryan could keep plays alive with his legs it'd partially make up for a suspect O line. He can't, so an effective O line is a necessity. At least three linemen, maybe more depending on how the existing ones adapt to Shanahan's zone blocking scheme. Combine that with the need for a running back and the defensive needs and Julio may be most valuable as a trade piece. I certainly wouldn't keep him this year if not planning on re-signing him. That makes zero sense, considering the needs of the team that trading him could solve versus the likelihood of his being the difference between contending for a Super Bowl run this year or not.

RandyFalcon
RandyFalcon

I'd trade anybody on this team for the right price. But the price that I'd want for Julio is probably higher than anybody else would pay. 

buellerbuellerbueller
buellerbuellerbueller

I'd rather have three/four down linemen and 3/4 linebackers who can play.   The average pass in the NFL is 8 yards.   Offense is standardized.   We should focus on defense for a while.

Fierce
Fierce

The issue here is that, as much as we all wish to be like Seattle, the truth is we're not. We don't have a great defense, in all three phases to let the skill positions be an afterthought. Seattle might have average receivers, but they have a great running back, and a great mobile QB. That mobile QB allows their offense to be unpredictable. Wilson can run the ball himself and he can also move around enough, to where his receivers are able to get open. Matt Ryan is not that mobile, and we don't have a great running game. For those reason, until we get that sound defense, Oline, and running attack, we can't afford to let our few strong points become weaknesses, to go along with our current ones. 

Dr. Pangloss
Dr. Pangloss

@Fierce You are correct.  Julio was out one year and Harry Douglas got a thousand yards receiving.  Matt Ryan can find 2 or 3 good WRs and a nice TE and get plenty of yardage and the same amount of tds any given year.  


Right now we have a catch-22 - we need about 10 new and better players to take the field and we need depth but we also have a good majority of fans who also want to keep the luxury item that, like a porsche, sits in the garage a good amount of time, and often, when on the road must drive the speed limit (IOW - what's the point of having a porsche if you can't drive it the way it's supposed to be driven?).  

devounknown1000
devounknown1000

@Dr. Pangloss @Fierce  Exactly Julio was out one year and Harry Douglas had over thousand yards, but guest what after Julio injury you finish 2wins and 9 loss.


Julio is your only playmaker on offense and you talking about getting rid of your best player, LOL!!!!!!!!


Hate see you become GM.


Julio and Cam Newton on same team would be scary.


GO FALCONS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Dr. Pangloss
Dr. Pangloss

@devounknown1000 @Dr. Pangloss @Fierce Dude did you see the 6 win season this year LOL indeed.  Julio makes no difference whether we're winning or losing.  The season before we got Julio we went 13-3.  Really glad I'm not stuck in your world of thinking.  I'll point out again that the team that Cam has right now put a 34-3 beat down on the team that has Ryan and Julio.  How great was Julio in that game?  Beeeeeast.  yeah ok. 

devounknown1000
devounknown1000

I believe the Falcons need to cut Roddy White and move on.


Roddy is now 33 years old and have lost at least 2 steps, there are some tough decision need to be made this off season,


GO FALCONS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

devounknown1000
devounknown1000

Falcons need to extend Julio contract 5 year 70 mill is a solid offer.


GO FALCONS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Dr. Pangloss
Dr. Pangloss

Julio's agent will not let Julio make any injury exemptions nor take a home town discount to stay in Atlanta and Julio would get killed by the Players Association for taking less money than he is worth.  So all you fantasy football guys can forget that option.  Falcons will have to pay Julio 13-18 million per year.  Or they could keep a stable of younger and cheaper WRs that Ryan can get to catch and move the chains.  Remember, we're also going to be running the football more in the near future.  Ryan's throws will be limited to 30 or less most likely.  There are much cheaper receivers to throw the occasional bomb to than Julio.  


We could use the money saved on Julio for NFL quality linebackers or an edge rusher or some blockers for Ryan.  It's not like we're going to have a giant black hole if Julio leaves. 


What will be quite amusing is if Julio leaves for another team to get what he's worth because this is about business and winning football games as opposed to a fan club party. 

devounknown1000
devounknown1000

@Dr. Pangloss  Paying Julio Jones around 14mill a year will not hurt this team cap space, one thing we have to understand is the cap space will go up over the next few year until there is a new CBA agreement.


GO FALCONS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Dr. Pangloss
Dr. Pangloss

@devounknown1000 @Dr. Pangloss True and it will go up for other teams as well.  This is not about whether he hurts the cap space it's always about where the money is spent best.  We cry about lack of depth, well every million counts in that regard IMHO. 

Blasingame
Blasingame

In how many games has Jones been the essential reason the Falcons won to the exclusion of any other player doing as well?  Two in five years?  Jones arrival destroyed the infrastructure of the Falcon by taking away five badly needed draft picks with very little corollary benefit.  Over the last five years the Patriots had 48 draft picks and the Seahawks had 47; the Falcons had 38.  See the difference?  To pay Jones what he deserves would not be a problem; to pay Jones what it will take to keep him will once again hamstring the Falcons for years to come.  It's long past time to let this albatross go; and send Dimitroff with him.  Give the Falcons a chance to get out from under the cloud of Julio Jones; It doesn't matter if he goes somewhere else and does very well.  The Falcons need to be free of him.

GoFalcons
GoFalcons

Time for Mark to retire. He is senile now.

relliott1
relliott1

Mark, Thanks for tackling a tough issue.  I agree with you.  Julio is a remarkably talented player.  He can be a game changer, but he is not a season changer. He came to the Falcons less than 100% with a foot injury and he has had injury issues of varying degree each year.  That's not a criticism, just a fact.


The reality is that as he ages, his injury-prone pattern will make him less of a consistent factor.  His trade value is the best it is ever going to be for Falcons right now.  I would hate to see him go - and hopefully not to a team in our division. At the same time, the value that he could bring on the trade market could likely reap at least 2 players who could play almost all of a season and make important contributions.


While on the subject of value, I don't see Steven Jackson being around much longer.  Again, he's a great person but I think over time, he has not played up to the expectations when he was signed.

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

The article makes the case the draft trade for Jones was a mistake. Other than that, I tend to believe some of these pundit suggestion pieces are planted by the team.


If the expert analysts are right about the Falcons roster doesn't that mean Smith either held serve or overachieved in 2014?

Dr. Pangloss
Dr. Pangloss

@DawgDadII I didn't want to keep Smith due to his limitations but Dimitroff was the one who really should have been booted. 

Mora-less-Petrino
Mora-less-Petrino

The best defense is an offense that can stay on the field and win the battle for time of possession. Julio is a game changer. If an opposing D doubles Jones, then Harry, Roddy, etc., are in a better situation to get open. #11 will even make the ground game better when the Birds get a RB that can pound the ball. 

Besides his ball catching, he's a good blocker and is part of the "good hands" team that defends onside kicks and Hail Mary's. 

 As for the stats mentioned in this article, I'm sure Julio's numbers will come down if a decent running game is established. As I mentioned, part of the hoped for success/improvement in the ground game will be attributal to opposing teams having to pay attention to Julio, plus his downfield blocking ability as running plays unfold.

 Show him the love and get the new contract done ASAP!

DawginNY
DawginNY

The Falcons have $23M in cap space.  And while I would prefer to big money to be spent on the lines of scrimmage, let's see what can be done with that money before ridding ourselves of a difference maker.

wcanon
wcanon

"Would the Falcons be better off without Julio?"

I think a better question would be:

"Would this blog be better off without Mark Bradley?"


You just ran out of things to write about, didn't you? If you really wanted a stupid headline why not:

"Is Matt Ryan really necessary on such a sorry team?"

Wilbo
Wilbo

@wcanon An idiot is an idiot is an idiot is an idiot....


Gmoney1971
Gmoney1971

Are you kidding me...today is not 1 April

devounknown1000
devounknown1000

20 Mill Dollar QB should be the one trying take money out  of his contract or extended to make room to sign some good players.


If your QB is making 20mill a year no way you finish the past 2 season with 10 wins and 22 loss, if your consider and a elite QB.


GO FALCONS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

devounknown1000
devounknown1000

You guys keep talking about trading Julio, LOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


You trade Julio Matt Ryan become a bomb.


Julio was hurt last year and guest what Mat Ryan led the Falcons with a record of 2 wins and 9 loss, SMH


GO FALCONS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


PalmBeachFalcon
PalmBeachFalcon

@devounknown1000  Matt Ryan does OK without Julio.  Ask #83.  Matt Ryan was also a good QB before Julio got here.  I think getting rid of Julio is a ridiculous idea, but also know that MR2 is a damn good QB regardless.