One of the NFL’s most dramatic storylines ended on Sunday when the Atlanta Falcons traded Julio Jones to the Tennessee Titans. With Jones heading out of the NFC, it doesn’t seem like the move would have much of an impact on the Minnesota Vikings. But with Minnesota looking to rebound in 2021, Julio to Tennessee is a big victory.
It starts with the Falcons, who weren’t much of a threat to the Vikings with Jones on the roster. By removing Jones, they hope that Calvin Ridley is ready to ascend into superstardom and that Kyle Pitts is a generational talent at a tight end.
Outside of Ridley and Pitts, the Falcons don’t have anyone on the roster who puts fear into opposing defenses. With the franchise still recovering from Super Bowl LI, there’s a good chance the Falcons have been taken out of the NFC playoff picture.
But there was also a chance that the Falcons could have put someone into it by giving them Jones.
The Seattle Seahawks were rumored to be interested in Jones’ services and would have formed a terrifying trio with D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. With Russell Wilson begging to throw the ball more, adding Jones would have been like buying your wife a bouquet after a fight.
The Los Angeles Rams were another team connected to Jones as they try to put weapons around Matthew Stafford. While the Rams will lean on Cam Akers in the backfield, adding Jones beside Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp would have been a huge upgrade.
Even if Jones were traded to one of the mediocre teams in the NFC East, it would have created another roadblock in the quest for the No. 7 seed. But none of that would have compared to him landing with the Green Bay Packers. While the Seahawks were buying Wilson flowers for their offseason spat, acquiring Jones would have been like the Packers booking a random getaway to Mexico for Aaron Rodgers.
No matter what the Packers front office wants to say, Rodgers is pissed off about how the team has handled things since Brian Gutenkunst took over as general manager. By acquiring Jones, the Packers would have been aggressively pursuing a top receiver for the first time since he took over for Brett Favre in 2008, which would have at least gotten them brownie points.
Enhancing the No. 1 offense in the league with Jones would have been a death sentence for the Vikings, who have the unenviable task of playing the Packers twice. With the possibility of two losses on the schedule, things would be tougher as Mike Zimmer and Rick Spielman try to save their jobs.
Yes, the Vikings made considerable upgrades on defense during the offseason. But to act like Patrick Peterson, who had a PFF grade in the 50s last season, could match up twice with Davante Adams and Jones would be the same train of thought that said Mike Hughes and Holton Hill would be fine last year.
The Jones trade doesn’t directly affect the Vikings, and it’s still likely we’re looking at a 10-or-11 win team this year. But the possibility of Jones landing on a direct contender would have spelled trouble for a team looking to return to the playoffs.