If you’ve been online or on social media this week, you’ve seen that Julio Jones would like to be traded from the Atlanta Falcons.
The 32-year-old wide receiver is looking to win a Super Bowl ring before his time in the NFL is done. That clock is starting to run out, and the Atlanta Falcons are not in a place where they can currently compete for a championship. Right now, it would be huge news if they even made the playoffs.
The Green Bay Packers are one of the teams being linked to Jones. They would be almost unstoppable on offense with Jones on the team. A receiving corps with Davante Adams and Jones would almost immediately make the Packers favorites in the NFC, if not the entire NFL. It might also make a certain quarterback more eager to return.
There are several major roadblocks the team would have to overcome, though. Let’s break down the two main obstacles that would prevent Julio from wearing the green and gold.
Julio Jones’ Age
Jones is a thirtysomething receiver who isn’t getting any younger. He only played in nine games last year and ended with just three touchdowns, 51 receptions, and 771 yards. Two of those three touchdowns came in one game. In 2019, he only had six touchdowns, although he did have 99 receptions for 1,394 yards.
The Packers aren’t usually ones to sign or keep around older receivers. They just drafted Amari Rodgers, and Devin Funchess is returning this year. Add them to Adams, Allen Lazard, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and Equanimeous St. Brown. That’s already a crowded receiving room, and none of them are older players.
Just look at former players like Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb. The Packers opted to release them instead of trying to re-sign them or negotiate contracts. Nelson has said that the Packers made a very low offer to him, and they didn’t really even try to keep Cobb around. These types of moves may have caused some of the current issues with Rodgers, but it’s kind of always been the Packers’ way, for better or for worse.
Their philosophy has never been to trade or sign a higher-priced veteran receiver. Sometimes you’ll get a Randy Moss when he went to New England. But most times, you will trade players and draft picks and spend too much money on a receiver who is no longer at their peak.
Salary Cap and Contracts
The real issue with bringing in Jones is his contract and Green Bay’s current salary cap situation. Just this week they restructured Dean Lowry’s contract. It moved it to mostly a signing bonus, but that still leaves the team with less than $3 million to spend this year.
Jones signed a 3-year, $66 million contract with Atlanta. He earns $15.3 million this year alone and $11.513 million for the next two years. And $64 million of that was guaranteed — plus he also got a $25 million signing bonus. Signing Jones would put the Packers $12 million over* the cap immediately.
There is a potential out in his contract for the 2023 season, but that guaranteed money is included in the 2021 season, so the Packers would probably lose that no matter what if they traded for him. Davante Adams is also a free agent after next season. Bringing in Jones would almost guarantee that Adams wouldn’t be able to re-sign with the Packers. Who would want that situation?
His dead cap does change come June 1, 2021. It would become a lot more workable for Green Bay to do it after that date, but still won’t be cheap.
The Falcons would obviously be looking for draft picks. And since the salary cap issues would still be there, that means the Packers would need to either trade players, release them, or restructure again.
Scenarios for Green Bay
One obvious scenario is if Rodgers signs a new contract and the money is largely restructured as a signing bonus or his salary hits in the next few years. So far, Green Bay doesn’t seem very interested in doing that. Their issue appears to be years on the contract, not the money. So that doesn’t seem likely.
So who would people choose to trade or cut? One fake tweet that was circulating swapped Jordan Love, Robert Tonyan, and a few draft picks for Jones. Love is under a cheap rookie contract for $2.8 million, and Tonyan is only $3.38 million. You would still need almost $6 million to clear the cap space, and you also gave away your possible future quarterback and a top-10 tight end. It would not be received well.
Would you release or trade Preston Smith? He has an $8.7 million salary hit that would still leave between $4 and $5 million to clear depending on the dead cap salary. You also then remove the amazing depth you have at outside linebacker. Besides Za’Darius Smith and Rashan Gary, you will need to rely on players like Randy Ramsey, Jonathan Garvin, and Tipa Galeai.
David Bakhtiari, Kenny Clark, and Aaron Jones all just re-signed with the Packers. It wouldn’t make sense to have them moved to another team for someone like Julio. Adrian Amos is around $2 million, but why would you break up one of the best safety duos in the NFL with him and Darnell Savage Jr.?
There are many decent players on the Green Bay Packers who you think would be worth some salary cap space but really aren’t. Marcedes Lewis, MVS, Kevin King, Devin Funchess, and Tyler Lancaster are all around $2 million each. Would you get rid of several of them? And to even think about releasing or trading rookie contracts would be silly.
The Real Cost
In reality, trading for Julio Jones just doesn’t make sense. It would be amazing to have him, but his contract is just way too costly. It doesn’t fit for the Packers right now. Green Bay is going to have a lot of salary cap issues in the next few years. Even if Rodgers restructures or re-signs at some point, it’s still going to be a ton of money, and he has to get paid at some point.
Paying an aging receiver $8-15 million this season doesn’t make sense, especially for the Packers. It’s nice to think about, but people need to stop seriously considering it as a serious possibility. Of course, it’s literally possible, but it would decimate the current roster and the team’s future. It’s just not worth it.
*An earlier version read that signing Jones would put them $12 million under the cap. We regret the error.