By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
The Patriots still need talent at wide receiver, for now and the future – and it appears that Julio Jones remains a possibility.
Even after a convincing win over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, the Atlanta Falcons continue to be the subject of major trade rumors involving valuable veteran pieces. According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, people around the league are “openly wondering whether quarterback Matt Ryan or even wide receiver Julio Jones will be shopped at the Nov. 3 trade deadline” – so it’s natural to assume the Patriots, who acquired Mohamed Sanu from the Falcons a year ago for a second round pick, are at least a cursory piece of those conversations.
As it usually is with a player of this caliber and the Patriots’ usual M.O. on the trade market, it’s not so simple as demanding a premium weapon and paying whatever it costs. Jones has an expensive contract and, while still one of the most dynamic receivers in the NFL, is already on the wrong side of 30 with a new generation of wideouts ascending.
N’Keal Harry may yet be a part of that new blood across the league at the position, but he certainly doesn’t appear ready to be a No. 1 receiver just yet. He may get there in year 3 or 4 of his young career, but Harry right now is best suited as a No. 2 or 3 option. The 34-year-old Julian Edelman, meanwhile, is on pace for just 64 catches this season, which would be his lowest output per-16 games since 2012.
Also complicating matters is that the Falcons recently fired GM Thomas Dimitroff, who worked for the Patriots from 2002-07. That may reduce the potential for a pipeline from Atlanta to Foxboro. But a deal is a deal, and the 1-5 Falcons may still be best suited to move their veterans and look toward the future. The Patriots may view Jones as a piece that could take the offense to another level and better complement their still-excellent defense.
Back to Jones’ contract. He’d be on the books for $15.3 million in 2021, and $11.5 million in 2022 and 2023, when he will be 34. But that’s a reasonable price to pay if Jones can continue to play at a high level for a few more years. The future Hall of Famer is coming off eight catches, 137 yards, and two touchdowns against the Vikings in Week 6.
Jones would give the Patriots a combination of size, athleticism, and veteran savvy that they simply lack right now, and haven’t had at any pass-catching position since the departure of Rob Gronkowski. The presence of Gronk tended to mask the Pats’ relative lack of explosiveness at receiver, because they didn’t necessarily need an elite pass-catcher at wideout when they had one at tight end.
Even if Harry develops into a strong receiver at the NFL level, he looks a long way away from approaching the level of production that Jones has shown over his career. So it’s not outlandish to think that Bill Belichick may consider bringing him aboard by the NFL trade deadline on Nov. 3, for the right price.
Sports Hub Sidelines Podcast
Ty Anderson and I discussed the latest with the Patriots and their upcoming schedule on the newest episode of the Sports Hub Sidelines podcast. Have a listen below. Patriots talk starts at 12:23.
Alex Barth and I talked football again before the Patriots play the 49ers. You can check that out below.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff or send him a nasty email at email@example.com.