Now that the highly-publicized trade rumors have been put to rest and Jones has found his home for at least the 2021 season, who in the NFL should be kicking themselves for not ponying up more than the Titans did?
Every NFL fan can breathe a collective sigh of relief now that Quintorris Lopez “Julio” Jones Jr. is officially a Tennessee Titan. After weeks of speculation, rumors, abrupt phone calls on live television shows, friends of friends of Jones talking to every sports podcast, and ESPN filling half of any show with Jones’ possible trade destinations, it’s nice to see other stories fill the day.
But while the fans of every fanbase are celebrating the return of other sports news 30 teams are now unable to say they came out as the winner of the seven-time Pro Bowl wide receiver in the end. And, where some teams don’t mind or didn’t even attempt to make a trade–even if they should have–other teams are collectively grieving the Falcons’ decision to give their 6th overall pick from 2011 to Tennessee and not them.
And for those that are too young, or don’t remember that particular draft very well, the Atlanta Falcons gave up a lot to move up to that sixth spot to grab the Alabama star WR–by “a lot” I mean they gave up five draft picks to Cleveland (27th, 59th, and 124th in 2011 plus the 22nd and 118th overall in 2012) for the Alabama native.
So, now that the Tennessee Titans have acquired the ten-year veteran–and a 2023 6th-round pick–for only a 2022 2nd-round pick and a 2023 fourth-round pick (according to Adam Schefter) it’s hard to believe that there wasn’t a better offer on the table for the receiver who has seven 1000+ yard seasons (fifth-most in NFL history).
What teams should’ve tried harder? Certain teams needed him, and five teams were reportedly trying to get a trade done before the Falcons finally pulled the trigger on Tennessee. What offers could they have had, and could they have tried to offer more than a second & a fifth?
The New England Patriots
It’s obvious that the Patriots are always in play whenever a big-name receiver is on the market (especially one that is in search of their first ring), but at the beginning of the offseason coach Bill Belichick and the Patriots untraditionally spent a hefty amount of money on a bevy of new offensive weapons (WR Nelson Agholor, WR Kendrick Bourne, TE Hunter Henry, TE Jonnu Smith).
With that being said there was no reason that they couldn’t have tried to give more for Jones, the 2x receiving yards leader (’15, ’18), especially considering how many picks they have in the next two drafts (14 total picks) and how much talent Belichick is known to give away a year or two early.
But Belichick and GM Kraft aren’t always the guys that will give up the house for a player, typically waiting till the last moments to grab players that still believe they have something left in the tank–just like they did with Randy Moss years ago.
Jones still could’ve taken Bellichick’s offense to another level no matter who they start at QB, whether it be rookie Mac Jones or 10-year veteran Cam Newton, and because of that, they should be reconsidering just how lucrative their future first (or second) round picks might actually be, considering the little amount of success they have had with past first-round picks.
The San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers team that was in the Super Bowl two seasons ago is almost entirely gone or incomplete shambles one way or another. For starters, their starting lineup for their 2019 Super Bowl run has lost almost all of its receivers (Marquise Goodwin, Emmanuel Sanders, Kendrick Bourne) and 2/3 of its running back room (Tevin Coleman & Matt Breida).
And what’s worse is that of the remaining members of that famed Super Bowl team there have been four major injuries, three of which were season-ending, to their four core offensive players: Jimmy Garoppolo (ankle sprain), George Kittle (foot fracture), Raheem Mostert (ankle sprain), and Kyle Juszczyk (MCL).
All that aside, they are in the midst of a weird moment in their franchise’s history where they are not fully engulfed in a rebuild but they are on the cusp of collapsing into one of the 2021-22 seasons does not go very well for injury-prone Garoppolo and Kittle.
The 49ers drafted Garoppolo’s heir-apparent at the number three spot in the draft (and gave up two first-rounders for him) this previous draft with North Dakota State QB Trey Lance, and it would appear that if “Mr. GQ” cannot stay healthy this season–or his production regresses–after spending so much time on the sidelines that San Francisco is completely fine dumping him for the likes of their rookie QB.
That QB instability is probably the main reason they didn’t go after Jones as prominently as Tennessee did, especially considering that their team was one of the most injured teams last season and GM John Lynch doesn’t know if what they have on the 53-man roster is truly needing of a star like Jones who will likely cost them $15 million this year alone.
The 49ers also did not have many draft picks to trade with as the Titans did, but they could have sent a developing defensive player or even one of their three good-to-great running backs that are all good enough to start somewhere to Atlanta instead of picks.
Overall, the key difference between the 49ers and Titans is that Tennessee has weapons galore (A.J. Brown, Derrick Henry, Josh Reynolds) that can keep the offense afloat if serious injuries plague them as they did to San Francisco’s season last year, meaning Jones knows he will succeed in light blue no matter who gets nicked up throughout the season.
The Green Bay Packers
The Packers’ organization is dealing with one crisis after another, whether it be the ongoing Aaron Rodgers drama or the poor practices that Jordan Love had earlier in the week, but if there’s one thing that could’ve helped resolve plenty of their issues–including their Super Bowl drought–it would have to be going all out for the 32-year old Jones.
If there has been one constant with the Packers organization over the past few years it is that they don’t give Rodgers the weapons he needs to take that huge step up from the NFC Championship game (which they’ve been in for three of the past five seasons) to the Super Bowl, which they have not been too since 2011.
This was their chance to not only silence the people spreading that uncaring narrative but it would have been a great opportunity to show Rodgers that they do want him to feel respected and heard by the front office, but they could not find an offer for the Falcons that topped a second & a fifth?
The Packers needed Jones for the final few years of Rodgers’ career and they squandered the opportunity even though they have seven picks to give up next season alone, plus two possible compensatory picks, and instead, they let Jones go to Tennessee for cheap.
And although Peter King of NBC Sports reported only three teams were in the mix outside Tennessee, it’s hard to think that the Packers were actually one of them and trying their hardest to get Jones, strictly due to the instability in their QB room at the current moment with a possible rookie (who only played 19 games in college) starting at QB or a disgruntled 37-year old QB who is coming off his 3rd MVP season.
No matter what excuse the Packers’ front office has for not going after Jones with vigor and brute strength, there will be no reason to believe them or believe that they would try harder if the chance presented itself again, I’m sure Rodgers would agree with me there.
The Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs are trying to be the fourth team to make it to three straight Super Bowls, and in doing so, they have found themselves with a hole in their WR room after the departure of WR Sammy Watkins, who was let go mainly due to how much time he spent off the field due to injuries.
They scored a late-round gem in the 2021 NFL Draft with Clemson’s WR Cornell Powell in round five (#181 overall), who fell mainly because he is coming into the NFL at somewhat of an “older” age of 23 or because of his amount of snaps at the National Championship winning program.
Powell does not fill Watkins’ WR2 role immediately, which is why Jones would have been a great filler player, especially if the Chiefs only planned on using Jones for his final two years of his contract (which will likely be Tennessee’s strategy as well) to help build the experience and football knowledge of their already-dominant receiver room.
A consistent Pro-Bowl receiver at the tail end of his illustrious career who is just coming off an injury-ridden season that is only worth a future second and fifth pick? The Chiefs could have knocked this out of the park, especially considering the weapons that they could give up other than picks like WRs Demarcus Robinson or Mecole Hardman.
All in all the Chiefs could have given Jones what he wanted (a QB who can throw the long ball), parted with a sub-par player, and/or offered plenty more than the Titans did. In the end, they chose to stick with their current roster, one that has gotten them to the Super Bowl two straight seasons, mainly without Sammy Watkins, who missed 16 games over his three seasons in KC.
The Seattle Seahawks
Much like the Rodgers-Packers situation that has evolved this offseason, there was plenty for the Seahawks star QB to be mad about at the end of this last season: his owners wouldn’t help him stay protected, his depth at WR and RB was being tested constantly due to injuries, and there was an overall need to please Russell Wilson ASAP.
A trade for Jones would’ve been difficult for Seattle considering they don’t have a first-round pick next season to give up but if Jones went to Tennessee for a second & a fifth it’s hard to see what the Seahawks didn’t have to offer Atlanta, including defensive players that could help the Falcons defense which allowed the most passing yards in the league last season (4697 yds).
But there is not very much worry within the walls of the Seahawks organization…why? Because they still have the stud pro-bowler D.K. Metcalf, fresh off an impressive offseason where he even tried out for the Olympics in the 100m dash (below), and the speedy, but reliable, pro-bowler Tyler Lockett who has surpassed every prediction by sports analysts since he came out of Kansas State University back in 2015.
They also still have their star QB, an assurance that the Packers do not have yet with Rodgers, which means they can do damage on offense no matter what. Still, an addition like Jones is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to the depth chart and could have propelled Wilson back to the Super Bowl, or at least back to the NFC Championship, for all we know.
No matter what Jones does in Tennessee, whether it be amazing or lackluster, there will always be “what if?” questions regarding every single team on this list and more…