Green Bay Packers Were Never Going to Trade for Julio Jones

Oct 5, 2020; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (11) is tackled after catching a pass during the second quarter against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 5, 2020; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (11) is tackled after catching a pass during the second quarter against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports /

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers wasn’t the only star player in the NFL who was unhappy with his team this offseason. Down in Atlanta, the Falcons have been working through their own situation with wide receiver Julio Jones.

Atlanta, who finds themselves teetering between trying to compete and a mini-rebuild, is in desperate need of additional cap space, currently sitting at just $337,851 under the cap, according to Over the Cap. On top of that, Jones is ready to move on, recently telling Shannon Sharpe on Undisputed that he’s “out of there,” when referring to his time with Atlanta.

For these reasons, along with others, a trade seemed inevitable, given where the two parties stood, and now that’s taken place. According to Ian Rapoport, the Falcons are trading Jones and a sixth round pick to Tennessee for a 2022 second round pick and a 2023 third.

Of course, before this deal took place, many Green Bay Packers fans, and even plenty who aren’t, thought that they should pursue the All-Pro receiver.

For starters, I can only imagine that a move of that magnitude would help smooth things over with Rodgers, but there’s also the obvious on the field aspect of pairing two of the league’s top receivers together. Jones did only appear in nine games last season, but he has been very durable over his career, earning All-Pro honors twice and seven Pro Bowl nominations. From 2014 to 2019, Jones averaged over 1,500 yards each season at 15.1 yards per catch and with just over six touchdowns.

It’s certainly fun to think about adding an elite receiver to what was already the NFL’s top scoring offense and having Rodgers under center with Jones on one side and a Davante Adams on the other, but realistically, this was never an option.

Sure, the Packers could have afforded to send Atlanta a second and fourth round pick, but that was never the issue–although Green Bay giving up that kind of draft capital for a 32-year-old player does not seem like a Packers-type of move. The issue, as has been the case all offseason and what will be the case again in 2022, is Green Bay’s salary cap situation.

It’s well documented that the Packers didn’t have much available cap space with the league-wide cap crunch; in fact, they’re still making moves because they don’t have enough to get through the 2021 season. Next year will be a similar story.

Jones comes with a cap hit of $23.05 million this season, and reportedly, the Titans will be taking on his $15.3 million base salary while Atlanta still has to foot the bill for his $7.75 million bonus. In 2022, Jones’ cap hit is $19.26 million, and in 2023 it is once again $19.26 million.

Are there ways that Green Bay could have reworked this deal to try to make it work? I mean, yeah, but again, that was never in play given Green Bay’s tricky cap situation.

For a team that is already $31 million over the 2022 salary cap — and that doesn’t include Jones’ $19.26 million cap hit either — acquiring Jones would have required them to push even more cap charges from 2021 to 2022 and 2023 just to make Jones’ cap hit somewhat reasonable this year–and that is something that the Packers have already done quite a bit of.

It’s also important to note that the $31 million cap figure, which as we’ve already established, doesn’t include Jones’ 2022 cap hit or any cap charges from 2021 that Green Bay would have to move there, it also doesn’t include Davante Adams, who is a free agent after this season. While, yes, there are ways to create cap space, this would make things incredibly messy.

Finding a way to make Jones’ contract work certainly would have fit in with the popular offseason buzz phrase of “going all in,” but as we all know — and to the frustration of some — this just isn’t how the Green Bay Packers operate, and this isn’t Madden of fantasy football either–the salary cap is real, and it has already kept Green Bay from being active in free agency.

So if you were still holding out hope that Jones was going to end up in Green Bay, I imagine you’re quite disappointed. I guess if there is a silver lining, it’s that he is now in the AFC, and even better, he’s not in Seattle, who was reportedly very interested in the former Falcon.

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As I already mentioned, this was a fun idea to think about, but it was never a realistic option for the Green Bay Packers.