VEGAS RAIDERS NEWS: Should the Raiders go all-in on Julio Jones?

Julio jones Las Vegas raiders trade
Nov 8, 2020; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (11) catches a touchdown pass against the Denver Broncos during the second half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Around and around the NFL rumor mill spins and, again, the Las Vegas Raiders are part of the whispers. This time it’s a possible trade for Julio Jones.

The questions surrounding Julio Jones and what his addition could mean for the Raiders – or any team for that matter – are unanswered and serious risk accompanies a trade for the wideout.

The ongoing trade drama surrounding NFL wide receiver Julio Jones has ensnared a number of teams around the league. Some teams have reportedly balked at the asking price while others are just kicking the tires. Star quarterbacks are reportedly making their pitches, hoodies are being dissected for information, and the pundits?

These poor slobs — and I mean that kindly — are working every source they have and making their best predictions to where he’ll end up. 

In the last few days though, one team has emerged as a dark horse for the Atlanta Falcons star’s services: the Las Vegas Raiders

Before Raider Nation starts drooling over the idea of one of the best wide receivers of his generation draped in the Silver and Black, hauling in bombs from Derek Carr and mentoring young playmakers like Henry Ruggs III, there are two major questions that need to be answered.

First, What would it take to pry Jones draft away from Atlanta, and second what would it cost the Raiders and is it worth it?

What might the Raiders give up?

Raiders head coach Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock have shown that they aren’t afraid of making big changes in the organization (see: Khalil Mack trade and Rodney Hudson trade) and there’s no doubt they’ve had intense conversations about adding a true number one receiver in like Jones. 

Julio Jones Las Vegas Raiders trade
\Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (11) looks for the catch covered by Carolina Panthers safety Sam Franklin (42) during the second quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Photo: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

The Raiders recent drafts have exposed their desperation to find dangerous weapons to surround Derek Carr. Jones is a true superstar that, when healthy, can shift the balance of power away from Kansas City ever so slightly in the high octane AFC West. In a division where games are often aerial shootouts, adding a proven game-breaker is worth its weight in gold. 

Only the Raiders don’t have much of the treasure chest to give up. 

The team currently has around $4 million in cap space which means the team would have to restructure several player deals or ship out a few players to take on a contract like Jones’. Jones has an average annual value of $22 million. The actual payout and how the player would see it are three years at $12.775 million each, which would be a steal for an elite player if that’s all involved. 

Atlanta is also allegedly seeking at least a first-round pick for next year’s draft which most teams are refusing to consider given Jones’ age, production drop off and salary requirements. The Falcons apparently had an offer of a second-round pick which wouldn’t require them to keep any of his salary on their books and they declined it. 

Atlanta is also not interested in a fire sale and won’t take lowball offers just because. A trade won’t happen before June 2, according to CBS Sports, because the Falcons would pick up $15.3 million of 2021 cap space because of structure of the Julio Jones contract.

In the end, the Raiders would have to get extremely creative to make the salary numbers work, then it would need to piece together an attractive trade package that wouldn’t decimate the teams ability to find quality players in the draft for years to come.

The multi-million dollar question: is Julio Jones worth it?

The short and bittersweet answer here is no. 

First, understand that the Falcons would probably have loved that Jones remained a Falcon for his entire career but have backed themselves into a corner and are trying desperately to fix their abysmal cap situation

Before 2020, Jones had been a steady 1,000-plus yard receiver for the past six seasons and has given Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan a true number one receiver that most NFL QBs would kill to have. 

The seven-time Pro Bowler is coming off an injury-plagued 2020 season which saw career or near-career lows across the board. Jones appeared in only nine games, catching 51 passes for 771 yards and three touchdowns. 

Those numbers wouldn’t be bad for a second or third receiver, but with three years left on his deal, and a fully guaranteed base salary of $15.3 million for 2021, a team would be paying number one money for a player entering the twilight years of his career. Not to mention Jones’ propensity to remove himself from games way too often.

His salary of $11.513 million in 2022 and 2023 make it a payout of $38.326 over three years. That doesn’t even factor into the fact Jones will almost certainly want to sign a new deal with whichever team trades for him.

If Julio Jones returns to form, he would be a welcomed addition to the Silver and Black. For all the short-term excitement that would come with a signing of this magnitude, though, the Raiders woes wouldn’t be cured. 

The Raiders front office has considered the possibility of a trade. Every NFL front office has. It’s what they get paid to do. 

The difference here is that, while the Raiders have done their due diligence, they are not a team that’s one player away from challenging for a Super Bowl title. They would be better served to stand pat and continue to develop their young players like Henry Ruggs III, Bryan Edwards, and Hunter Renfrow. 

Add in Carr, who is coming off a career year, and Pro Bowl tight end Darren Waller, offseason addition of running back Kenyan Drake, and first round stud Alex Leatherwood, and Las Vegas looks to have a more potent offense. 

The questions surrounding Julio Jones and what his addition could mean for the Raiders – or any team for that matter – are unanswered and serious risk accompanies a trade for the wideout.

While the Raiders offense can get better (especially in the red zone), the improvement and time and resources spent on the defense are what can make the biggest difference for the Raiders in 2021. While Julio Jones is a great player, with a nice pedigree, he’s not the missing link for the Raiders to capture their fourth Vince Lombardi trophy.

With all the question marks surrounding the team, the Raiders can’t afford to take on more risky project.

Not at this point in their rebuilding journey, and not at the price it would take.

The Raiders need to pass on Julio Jones – as tempting as it might be.