The Tennessee Titans are looking for a bona fide No. 2 wide receiver behind A.J. Brown. The Atlanta Falcons are looking to trade star wideout Julio Jones to clear some much-needed cap space.
So, the two teams would seem like logical trade partners, right?
According to a report from Jeff Schultz of The Athletic, the Titans are one of a few teams that have shown interest in acquiring Jones’ services. However, the 32-year-old receiver is due $15.3 million in base salary in 2021 and $11.5 million in each of the next two years after that, meaning the Titans would have to come up with some fancy financial footwork to pull off a trade and make it work within the salary cap.
Currently, Tennessee has just $3.58 million in cap space. To facilitate a potential trade, the Titans could restructure a few contracts already on their books, or they could get clever with quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s contract.
The Titans have the option to reduce the 32-year-old QB’s $29.5 million cap hit by converting $23.5 million of his base salary into a bonus, which would in turn take his 2021 cap hit down nearly $15.6 million. In that scenario, Tannehill’s cap hit for the following two seasons would increase by $7.8 million, which would be an easier pill to swallow given the 2022 cap projected to go back to a more reasonable number.
There is also the possibility that Jones wants to go to a legitimate playoff contender, which the Titans are, and he could restructure his contract or agree to some sort of a pay cut.
If the Titans were to land Jones, they would instantly have the best 1-2 punch at wide receiver in the division, if not the entire AFC. Signing Josh Reynolds did ease the sting of losing Corey Davis a little, but he’s likely more of a No. 3 wideout. Adding Jones to go along with Brown and Derrick Henry would give Tennessee one of the more dominant offenses in franchise history.
Henry publicly advocated for Tennessee to make a deal for Jones, also an Alabama alum, tweeting, “TITAN TF UP,” in a quote tweet of a graphic naming the Titans as a possible suitor for the seven-time Pro Bowl receiver.
Trading for Jones though does not come without risk. At 32, the veteran wideout has missed time in his six of his nine NFL seasons, including three of the last five years. He did, however, still put up decent numbers, tallying 51 receptions, 771 yards and three touchdowns. Before his injury last year, Jones hadn’t had a season with fewer than 83 catches or 1,392 yards since 2013 when he played in just five games.
The details of the trade compensation for Atlanta would have to be worked out as well, although Schultz says the Falcons are unlikely to get a first-round pick — the obvious best-case scenario for Atlanta — but a second-round pick or possibly even a third rounder could be enough to swing a deal.
Schultz also listed the Ravens, 49ers, Patriots, Chargers and Colts as teams that could be interested and have the cap flexibility to pull off a trade.
Per SportsLine, the Titans have the fifth-best odds (+900) of acquiring Jones, behind the 49ers (+250), Raiders (+300), Patriots (+500) and Chargers (+700).
Follow Michael Gallagher on Twitter @MGsports_