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The Implications of a Potential Julio Jones-49ers Pairing

Rohan Chakravarthi
May 21, 2021 at 1:30 PM0


Yesterday, rumors belted that the Atlanta Falcons were actively shopping Julio Jones due to their cap situation.

Well, those rumors have actually been happening all offseason, but they seem to be mounting as the Atlanta Falcons don't have enough cap space to sign their own draft picks.

Julio Jones has been a valuable player for the team over the past decade, but his high cap-hit, injury history, and team depth are all reasons to indicate that he may be out the door by the beginning of the 2021 NFL season.

Pair that with new general manager Terry Fontenot's desire to create a bright future and it seems that Jones is on his way out.



Well, that may be music to San Francisco's ears.

After electing to pass on receivers in the 2021 NFL Draft, a position they've drafted in every year since 2002, the 49ers are in need of a third receiver since Kendrick Bourne left for the Patriots in free agency.

They have two promising receivers in Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk, but the depth at the position involves many unknown entities like Richie James, Jalen Hurd, and Austin Watkins.

Recent addition Marqise Lee was signed just four days ago, but after a few days of training camp, Lee was cut by the 49ers today.

That leaves an opening at the position.

Pros


If the 49ers do trade for Julio Jones, they'd be getting a 7x Pro Bowler and 2x All-Pro player who has produced seven 1,000-yard seasons in his 10-year career.

The production is evidently there, and given the 49ers' need for a third receiver, Jones would fit perfectly as an outside receiver.

In addition, Jones played under Kyle Shanahan from 2015–2016, when he had the best years of his career, including a career-high 1,871 yards in the 2015 season.

Familiarity with Jones could open up Shanahan's creativity and elevate San Francisco's championship window. Not only will familiarity help, but Jones could also serve as a safety blanket for quarterbacks Jimmy Garoppolo and Trey Lance, creating more passing opportunities. Jones' elite size and speed allow an offense to take off the pressure from the quarterback, as there is always the 50–50 ball option as a last resort.

Jones would also serve as a mentor to the younger receivers and could help their development, improving the wide receiver corps as a whole.

Jones is still in his prime, despite being 32 years old, and has played in most games over the past five years. Despite nagging injuries, Jones has mainly been a constant force on the field, missing only four of 96 games before missing seven last year.

With less responsibility in the 49ers system due to improved defense and a knack for running the football, San Francisco is a prime place for Jones to showcase his talent while remaining relatively healthy.

Cons


Despite playing at a high level for many years, Jones took a step back last year with nagging injuries and his first sub-1,000-yard season since 2014.

Last year's production, along with his age, could be in the opposite direction in which the 49ers want to go as it would add more age and less youth to a team already burdened with cap issues.

Jones also carries a big cap hit, and due to the number of suitors, an interested team might have to absorb all of Jones' salary for the upcoming season.

Also, given the potential number of suitors, the price for Jones would be relatively high in terms of draft capital, and the 49ers are lacking in that department after trading their next two first-round picks to Miami for the No. 3 overall selection in this past draft.

In addition, wide receiver is not the biggest need for this 49ers team. Being a team that creatively pounds the ball and already having two solid weapons at the position, the 49ers may not be incentivized to trade for the star receiver.

The 49ers might not want to part with that capital, especially after finding many gems in recent drafts.

Given his cap hit, the draft capital needed to get him, and the lack of need at the position, Julio Jones may not be the best decision for the team.

Implications


If the 49ers were to trade for Julio Jones, it would spark a series of implications regarding contracts and their future.

To save cap space for the upcoming year, an extension with the star receiver might be necessary to lower the cap hit for the team.

While this move could save the 49ers now, it may create future salary-cap issues as Fred Warner and Nick Bosa are due for extensions and certainly would demand hefty salaries given their talent.

That would almost certainly mean moving on from incumbent quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (although that was likely either way) and potentially letting cornerbacks Jason Verrett and K'Waun Williams, running backs Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson Jr., and safety Jaquiski Tartt all walk in free agency.

While the 49ers were likely to move on from many players next offseason due to cap implications, trading for Jones would certainly increase that amount with less cap flexibility, especially since an extension is probable if that happens.

However, another implication would be with the development of Trey Lance. With Jones as a safety blanket, the 49ers might be inclined to start Lance at some point this season, and definitely next season.

With a superb receiving core, quality running backs, and a solid offensive line, Lance would have all the weapons around him to be a successful NFL quarterback and unleash his potential on both the throwing and running side.

If Lance can develop sooner than later, Shanahan could be more inclined to open up the playbook and create a lethal 49ers offense for years to come.

That is, of course, if Julio Jones actually gets traded to the 49ers.

The following weeks should clear up rumors and provide a better picture of the Jones situation, which will let avid fans know where Atlanta's star receiver will play next season.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


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