Julio Jones trade grades: Titans and Falcons earn high marks for splashy move

The Tennessee Titans put the AFC on notice by trading for Julio Jones on Sunday, keeping their premium draft capital but taking on all of Jones’ onerous contract. He is guaranteed $15.3 million next year and is slated to earn $11.5 million in each of the next two years.

Here’s the full breakdown:

Titans receive:
  • Julio Jones
  • 2023 sixth-round draft pick
Falcons receive:
  • 2022 second-round draft pick
  • 2023 fourth-round draft pick
Titans grade: B+

Regardless of what team you root for, this is a great trade for football fans. Tennessee paired the most prolific wide receiver of the past decade with the best running back in football (Derrick Henry) and rising star A.J. Brown. With the efficient Ryan Tannehill running the show, the Titans will have the NFL’s most effortless offense next year.

Tennessee earns a high grade for keeping their first-round pick despite rumors that the Falcons had been offered one. They expect to make a deep playoff run next year, so the second-rounder they gave up will likely have little value.

But let’s make one thing clear: the trade has little, if any, impact on the Titans’ Super Bowl odds. Their offense was never the problem; they tied for second in the league last year in total offense but were 28th in defense. More pass attempts will simply mean fewer carries for Henry — not necessarily a more potent offense. For two years, Tennessee has been an edge rusher away from joining the upper echelon of NFL teams. Another offseason is about to pass without them changing that fact.

It’s impossible to know what the 32-year old Jones will bring to the table, especially because we only have nine injury-free games from last year to evaluate him with. We have already seen that quarterbacks’ ability can disappear without warning, but there is little precedent for someone who has been as good as Jones for so long.

However, recent greats like Antonio Brown and Randy Moss saw their play drop off sharply in their early 30s. Jones showed flashes of his former self last year in three games with over 130 yards but also struggled to create separation and often ended up with less than five targets.

Regardless of how he performs, Jones will make an absurd amount of money. Only DeAndre Hopkins has a higher annual value. The Titans earn a B+ simply for adding a future Hall of Famer, but his salary keeps them from a top grade.

Falcons grade: B+

Atlanta terribly mismanaged this trade. Even before Jones accidentally announced his desire to leave the team on live television, the Falcons made it painfully clear how desperate they were to dump his salary.

But even if things had gone perfectly, the Falcons were never going to get a first-round pick for Jones. The Texans couldn’t even get a first-rounder when they dealt Hopkins last year in the prime of his career.

All that mattered was finding someone to take on all of Jones’ salary so that Atlanta can focus on rebuilding their roster. There was no way to justify paying any receiver, let alone one in their thirties, $22 million when the Falcons are so far away from contention.

With two extra draft picks, they can afford to take a flyer at quarterback next year or put together a package to trade up in the first round. In the meanwhile, Ridley and Kyle Pitts can easily anchor their passing game.

Julio Jones was even more synonymous with the Falcons than Matt Ryan. By trading him, Atlanta signaled that they are ready to commit to a rebuild and finally escape their 2017 Super Bowl hangover.