The Falcons “would like to” trade the star wide receiver, The Athletic reported at length Thursday. But the salary cap issues the team is facing are dire, and the only have two players they can deal with to help create some space – Jones and defensive lineman Grady Jarrett, according to The Athletic.
Jones signed a three-year, $66 million contract right before the start of the 2019 season. He is expected to be a $23 million cap hit in 2021, according to Spotrac. The Athletic reported that the Falcons are between $400,000 and $600,000 under the cap and don’t have enough to sign their entire draft class.
The team could end up restructuring Jarrett’s deal to get some wiggle room, but The Athletic reported the team has yet to approach Jarrett about the decision. The other idea would be to trade Jones, something that general manager Terry Fontenot has been publicly open about.
The report identified only a handful of teams who could help the Falcons – Baltimore Ravens, Indianapolis Colts, Los Angeles Chargers, New England Patriots, San Francisco 49ers or potentially the Tennessee Titans.
Jones only played in nine games in 2020 after making six consecutive Pro Bowls. He had 51 catches for 771 yards and three touchdowns. Atlanta finished the season 4-12.
Atlanta’s idea to trade Jones first surfaced last month.
Fontenot told FOX 5 Atlanta at the time the organization was picking up the phone on calls from teams looking into Jones’ availability.
“You have to listen if people call,” Fontenot said. “On any player. We are in a difficult cap situation, that’s just the circumstance. It’s not a surprise for us.”
He added: “Our administration getting us in position to be able to manage the cap, yet we still have more work to do. So when teams call about any players, we have to listen. We have to weigh it. We have to determine what’s best for the organization.”
The NFL Network reported a trade cannot happen before June 1 due to salary cap reasons, and The MMQB reported that the Falcons are seeking a first-round pick for Jones. According to The Athletic, the team is seeking draft picks in a trade, though a first-rounder is unlikely.