Falcons’ Arthur Smith on Julio Jones: Conversations are private
Atlanta Falcons first-year coach Arthur Smith on Tuesday didn’t shed much light on the rampant trade speculation involving All-Pro wide receiver Julio Jones.
One day after Jones told Fox Sports that he was “outta there,” Smith elected against answering questions on the seven-time Pro Bowl wideout.
Smith did not directly address whether Jones asked for a trade earlier this year or whether the sides could come to an agreement on the upcoming season.
“Any private conversation that I have with our players is going to remain private on my end,” Smith said. “And I’m not going to sit here and comment on any potential roster moves that we may or may not make.”
When asked about the notion of trading away a franchise favorite in Jones, Smith elected to take a bigger-picture perspective.
“Look, this is a tough business. We all signed up for it, coaches and players, we understand that. But everything we do here is going to be well thought out and it’s going to be handled out behind the scenes with dignity with the players. As long as I’m here, that’s that way it’ll be done.”
Multiple reports emerged before the NFL Draft last month that indicated the Falcons were listening to trade overtures from other teams. That came after Jones asked for a trade at the start of the offseason, and the team was trying to honor his request behind the scenes, per reports, adding the Falcons were seeking a first-round draft pick in return.
Jones, 32, caught 51 passes for 771 yards and three touchdowns in nine games in 2020. His low production was a byproduct of injuries. The Falcons selected him with the No. 6 overall pick in the 2011 draft.
Jones has three years left on his contract, including $15.3 million for the 2021 season and $11.51 million for 2022 and 2023. His salary cap hit for 2021 is $23.1 million.
Between Jones, Matt Ryan and defensive tackle Grady Jarrett, more than $70 million in 2021 salary cap space is consumed by three contracts.
Jones and Ryan have been one of the most prolific combinations in NFL history. Entering last season, Jones’ career average of 96.2 receiving yards per game was the best in NFL history.
But the hamstring injury derailed his 2020 season and Ryan clicked with Calvin Ridley. The third-year pro caught 90 passes for 1,374 yards and nine touchdowns. He’s owed just $1.9 million in the final year of his rookie contract but the Falcons are planning to exercise his fifth-year option for 2022.
–Field Level Media