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‘Julio is on a different level’: 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan asked about Falcons’ Jones

May 18, 2021 at 12:09 PM--

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The San Francisco 49ers acquired Marqise Lee on Monday after the veteran wide receiver did enough during a tryout over the weekend to impress the team. NFL trade rumors continue to surround another veteran wide receiver — Julio Jones of the Atlanta Falcons. The San Francisco 49ers haven't been directly linked to Jones, but the team is almost always discussed as a potential landing spot whenever a talented player becomes (or potentially becomes) available.

Quarterback Matt Ryan doesn't want to imagine what the Falcons offense might look like without his future Hall of Fame receiver.

"He's probably impacted my career more significantly than any other player," Ryan said this week via The Athletic.

49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan is very familiar with Jones. He had the opportunity to work with the seven-time Pro Bowler during his two seasons as the Falcons offensive coordinator. Jones obviously made an impression on the coach.

"If there's a Julio Jones available and you have the opportunity to get him, you go get him," Shanahan said in 2018. "It's worth it. Whatever the price is, whatever the draft pick is, go get him."

Does Shanahan feel the same way three years later? Jones continues to be productive. Before this past season, when he was limited to nine games due to a lingering hamstring injury, the wideout posted six consecutive seasons of 1,394-or-more receiving yards. He ranks No. 20 all-time in accumulated receiving yards.

There is little question that San Francisco would probably welcome the opportunity to acquire Jones. Any team would. The question is whether it has anything enticing enough to pry away the receiver from Atlanta. The team doesn't have a first-round pick in either of the next two drafts, thanks to the trade to draft quarterback Trey Lance. San Francisco has some talent on its roster but probably wants to hold on to its young cornerstones.

Jones is also scheduled to earn $15.3 million in 2021, per That is a significant chunk of change. However, if the 49ers feel adding an All-Pro receiver significantly increases their chances of winning a championship, EVP of football operations Paraag Marathe could probably work some salary-cap magic.

Shanahan spoke with Michael Irvin on the former NFL receiver's podcast last week and was asked about San Francisco always being linked to potentially available players, and more specifically, about Jones. The 49ers coach was careful with his words after Irvin was done praising the receiver. After all, Jones is on another roster, and the league has rules against tampering.

"Julio Jones, for everybody, especially if you had a chance to coach him, he's what you're saying and more," Shanahan said. "I mean, the dude is one-of-a-kind. He makes coaching a lot — a lot — easier. That's why everyone feels the same about Julio. That's why I don't worry about saying that. That's like common knowledge. Everyone knows Julio is on a different level. That's why he's a special guy.

"And I don't know what their situation is, but I do know everyone feels that way about Julio. ... Watch him, and any person will see for themselves that he is a different dude."

Shanahan added that he is fortunate to have worked with two receivers like that over his coaching career, which intrigued Irvin. Who could the 49ers coach possibly be comparing to Jones?

"Julio is different than everyone, but the guy that I had closest to him was Andre Johnson," Shanahan shared.

Irvin agreed.

"I was a receiver coach with Andre. I was 26," Shanahan continued. "He and [Eric] Moulds. It was an awesome group. I got to coach [Johnson] for a couple of years. Dre is my guy. Dre was the first 'Julio' that I had been around, and now you've got Julio. You look at guys like DK (Metcalf) and stuff, and you're like, 'How many more of these guys are coming?'"

You can listen to the entire conversation with Shanahan below. It begins at about the 26-minute mark.

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