All offseason, fans of the Atlanta Falcons have been waiting to see if the team was going to move future Hall of Famer wide out Julio Jones, getting cash and draft picks in return.
Finally on Sunday the deal for Jones was wrapped up and agreed upon, as the Falcons agreed to send Jones to the Tennessee Titans for a second-round pick in 2022 and a pick swap (four to six) in 2023.
Jones has been trying to do whatever he can to stay healthy, but 2020 was just not his year. Last season, he played in just nine games (roughly half the NFL slate), pulling in 51 catches for 771 yards and three scores.
He can be a huge asset to the Titans in 2021, as he’s due to make $15.3 million, but more so, he can be a massive help to young receiver A.J. Brown, who in his first two seasons in the NFL has caught 122 passes for 2,126 yards and 19 touchdowns.
Now that Jones is gone from the ATL, the team has to come up with someone who can step in and make plays when called upon.
Whom can Matt Ryan rely upon when there’s heat in the kitchen and the game is on the line late in the fourth quarter?
The obvious choice is No. 1 pass receiver Calvin Ridley, who had 11 TD grabs in 2020, also catching 90 passes for 1,374 yards.
However, Ridley is sure to be double-teamed early and often, so Atlanta needs another receiving option.
Christian Blake is another possibility for Ryan and company. Last season, Blake saw action in nine games, starting three. Overall on the season, Blake caught 13 passes for 141 yards and no scores. The team is anxious for that to change in 2021.
His biggest and best game as a pro came in Week 13 against the Saints when he had six catches for 57 yards.
While the Falcons try and figure out their newly-revamped offense, the Titans, the team that snagged Jones away from Atlanta, now need to figure out the best way to incorporate the 32-year-old so that he can be the impact player the team hopes he can be.
“My charge is to get as many good players on the team as possible, and I’m excited about the guys we had back on the roster, the guys that we added in the offseason, but when you’re able to acquire a player like Julio and can add him into the mix of our football team, what we try to do offensively, those don’t come around very often,” Titans general manager Jon Robinson said.
“We thought it was a move that we needed to make for us. I know our fans are super stoked to have him here.”
One last Atlanta player to keep an eye on as the 2021 season draws closer is wide receiver Frank Darby.
Darby, a sixth-round pick, could be a breakout player for Ryan and the Atlanta offense this upcoming season.
What can the former Arizona State pass catcher do? He’s an incredible deep threat who can blow by defenders. He’s got great size as well as jump-ball ability.
It may take some time, but keep an eye on Darby and the rest of this young Falcons wideout corps.
If Darby is the answer, it’ll be an interesting summer as Ryan and company work try to replace Jones and see whether Darby is that answer on offense.