Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports

Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN proposes acceptable 49ers trade offer for Julio Jones

May 27, 2021 at 8:39 AM--

ESPN went through an interesting exercise. Several of the site's team writers, including San Francisco 49ers beat reporter Nick Wagoner, played the roles of general managers for their respective teams and proposed offers for Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones. In this scenario, the 49ers, Baltimore Ravens, New England Patriots, and Tennessee Titans all made offers.

Then Falcons reporter Michael Rothstein selected the most enticing offer to accept. The one he ultimately chose was Wagoner's from the Niners.

So what was the 49ers' offer in this exercise? Wagoner offered up a 2022 second-rounder and a 2023 fourth-rounder for the future Hall of Fame wide receiver. The move would leave San Francisco without a selection in the first two rounds next year but would bring in a high-caliber offensive weapon for Jimmy Garoppolo or Trey Lance.

"The 49ers have two exciting young wideouts in Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk, but that duo combined to play 19 games last season as injuries and COVID-19 issues kept them on the sideline," wrote Wagoner. "Adding Jones -- who knows Kyle Shanahan and his offense well -- would offer the opportunity to protect Samuel and Aiyuk while adding the big outside receiver the Niners lack. The move also puts Jones on a contender, which he expressed as a personal priority."

What were the other offers? Jamison Hensley offered up the Ravens' 2022 second-rounder and the 2022 fifth-rounder acquired from the Kansas City Chiefs but asked Atlanta to eat $4 million of Jones' guaranteed salary in 2021. Rothstein turned this down because the whole point is to create salary-cap space.

Mike Reiss has the Patriots offering a 2022 second-rounder and quarterback Jarrett Stidham. However, Stidham isn't very enticing and doesn't solve any immediate or future problems in Rothstein's eyes.

Turron Davenport has the Titans willing to part with a 2022 third-rounder and linebacker Rashaan Evans. Rothstein found this offer intriguing but ultimately decided on San Francisco's.

"The San Francisco deal was the simplest but also made the most sense," wrote Rothstein. "The Falcons acquire two picks that can help reshape the roster or offer Fontenot draft capital to maneuver the next two years. It gave, to me, the best return of the offers put out there."

Jones is slated to earn $15.3 million in 2021. That's a significant sum to add to an already reduced salary cap. However, San Francisco owns nearly $17.7 million in cap space, per It still needs to lock up its remaining unsigned draft picks, set aside enough money for any potential in-season maneuvering, and worry about Fred Warner's extension. Still, some salary-cap creativity from Paraag Marathe could make all of this possible.

That creativity wouldn't necessarily mean being forced to dump quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo's massive salary. The team could restructure his deal. Of course, that would mean a bigger commitment in future years, assuming he is around.

"Is there a route to landing Jones that includes keeping Garoppolo at his current price?" wrote Wagoner. "Yes, but it would take a lot of work. A contract extension that lowers guard Laken Tomlinson's 2021 cap number or possible restructuring of deals for players like defensive end Arik Armstead and safety Jimmie Ward would be possible mechanisms to make it work. Or perhaps the 49ers do a simple restructure with Jones, a deal that would increase his modest cost in 2022 and 2023 but make it more palatable to fit him in 2021."

Of course, all of this may be moot, as ESPN's Dianna Russini reported this morning that the Falcons received a trade offer that includes a future first-round pick. That would price out San Francisco.

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