According to KOA Colorado’s Benjamin Allbright, the Indianapolis Colts were among the trade suitors interested in Atlanta Falcons’ star wideout Julio Jones ahead of the 2021 NFL Draft:
Ravens, Raiders and Colts were all interested in Julio before draft.— Benjamin Allbright (@AllbrightNFL) May 24, 2021
Not sure how Raiders pull that off, but...
Does that mean that Colts general manager Chris Ballard still is?
Who exactly knows right now.
However, Allbright is one of the most credible NFL insiders out there, so it appears as though Indianapolis was interested at least at one point in time earlier this offseason.
For what it’s worth, since the recent NFL Draft’s conclusion, the Colts have signed former Kansas City Chiefs Pro Bowl left tackle Eric Fisher to a 1-year, $9.4 million deal.
It doesn’t necessarily preclude the Colts from acquiring Jones, but Indianapolis has less than the $15.3M of available cap space needed to absorb the wideout’s high cap hit outright.
It would complicate such an acquisition, as the Colts would have to get creative in restructuring some other highly priced contracts currently on player payroll to free up some extra wiggle room (at least roughly $4.2M) to take on Jones’s $15.3M 2021 cap hit.
It’s not impossible—by any means, but it would still take a little additional leg work.
It’s worth noting that the Falcons are reportedly requesting a first round pick from any potential trade partner—although some NFL teams think they’ll be fortunate to get as much:
Atlanta has asked teams that have inquired about Julio Jones for a first-round draft pick in return, per sources. Others around the league don’t believe the Falcons ultimately will get a first for the perennial Pro-Bowl wide receiver.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) May 24, 2021
Compounding matters for the Colts is that the team more than likely is already without its 2022 first round pick, which will presumably be surrendered to the Philadelphia Eagles as part of the Carson Wentz trade (as long as he safely meets the starting quota).
Even with a potential lower asking price of a 2022 second round pick from the Colts, with Indianapolis being without two early picks in next year’s draft, it seems pretty unlikely—knowing how much Ballard enjoys having an abundance of draft capital around.
Maybe there’s a possibility Indy could push it to 2023.
In any case, Jones is one of the league’s best wideouts of his era, as a 2x First-Team NFL All-Pro, 3x Second-Team NFL All-Pro, 7x NFL Pro Bowler, 2x NFL receiving yards leader, NFL receptions co-leader, and a member of the NFL 2010s All-Decade Team.
The former 6th overall pick of the 2011 NFL Draft is poised to become a future Pro Football Hall of Fame lock, as he ranks 20th in receiving yards (12,896), 29th in catches (848), and 88th (tied) in touchdown receptions (60)—with just a few more elite seasons of production provided on the field.
He’s currently the Falcons’ franchise all-time leading receiver in receptions and receiving yards respectively.
Jones is coming off a season for the Falcons, in which he recorded 51 receptions for 771 receiving yards (15.1 ypr. avg.) and 3 touchdown receptions during 9 starts—having battled through a lingering hamstring injury.
At age 32, Jones remains one of the league’s best wideouts—when healthy, and figures to have at least a year or two of elite football still left in the tank.
Jones has owed cap hits of $11.4M for both 2022 and 2023 thereafter.
The Colts have done little to improve last year’s receiving corps—instead largely retaining it, re-signing both T.Y. Hilton and Zach Pascal, and recently selecting rookie Charleston wideout Mike Strachan in the 7th round.
Jones would immediately upgrade the Colts’ wide receiver corps, providing them with a bonafide, #1 wideout again. A ‘dude’ that opposing secondaries have to consistently double team or game plan for on a weekly basis.
Plus, he’d make for a shiny new toy for Wentz to throw to—as the Colts place the latter in a maximum position to succeed during his debut season in Indianapolis. (It’s important for Wentz to get off to a great start and build continued confidence).
However, given the Colts’ required cap hit maneuvering and the high draft capital to still be surrendered for Jones, and it’s not the most seamless fit for Indianapolis to acquire him.
It would be an incredibly strong, ‘We think we can win now though,’ move of complete Colts’ conviction.