“Me and Julio down by the schoolyard.” — Russell Wilson’s new theme song?
Are the Seahawks just placating Russell Wilson by talking trade with Atlanta, or are they really interested in Julio Jones?
If they are seriously engaged in trade talks with the Falcons for the uber-talented but often nicked-up receiver, the question is: What’s one year of Jones worth to the Seahawks?
Yeah, the star receiver is signed for three more years. But he is expected to want a new deal (he makes $22 million a year right now, second to DeAndre Hopkins’ $27 million APY), and Seattle surely is not going to pay him along with Tyler Lockett (just extended at $17.3 million) and DK Metcalf (whose payday is coming in 2022).
Seattle likely would want to pull its new favorite veteran trade move, cutting Jones’ contract down to one year. He is due $15.3 million guaranteed in 2021, but John Schneider and Matt Thomas likely would make their usual offer: “Drop your salary and we’ll eliminate the final two years of your deal so you can become a free agent next year.”
If Jones really wants to play with Wilson and likes the idea of free agency in 2022, he might be willing to drop his salary to $10 million. Using their newfound voidable-years strategy, the Hawks could pay him a $9 million bonus and a $1 million salary, and he would count $3 million or $4 million.
They are sitting at around $7 million in cap space now and need a couple million for practice squad and a few million for injury replacements during the season. They could add more room with extensions, restructuring Bobby Wagner or cutting Tre Flowers.
Even if Jones didn’t want to lower his salary, the Seahawks still could squeeze him in at $15.3 million – still slicing off the remainder of his deal and using voidables to drop his cap hit and let him free in 2022.
They also could try to get Atlanta to pay some of that, depending on how desperate the Falcons get. They would get all $15.3 million back under the cap since the trade would be made after June 1, so they could eat some of it to move him.
Schneider loves to say, “We are in on every deal,” and this one seems like a possibility if (1) Jones plays Seattle’s contract game to join Wilson in 2021 and be free in 2022, (2) he doesn’t mind being the No. 3 receiver in a stacked corps and (3) the Falcons respect him enough to send him where he prefers to play (assuming offers are equitable).
It sounds like the main bidders for Jones – reportedly the Seahawks, Rams, Titans and 49ers – are waiting for the price to drop below a first-round pick. NFL insiders think a second-rounder eventually may get it done.
The Titans reportedly are the favorites – if only because the Falcons may not want to trade Jones within the NFC. But what if the offers are the same and the 10-year veteran expresses a desire to play with Wilson?
Schneider has given up high picks for short-term guys before (e.g, a 2 for Sheldon Richardson and a 3 for Jadeveon Clowney). Jamal Adams cost a ton and may not be in Seattle beyond two or three years. But that seems to be Schneider’s new MO: Add impact veterans to win now. So it’s not inconceivable that he would burn another high pick on a so-called hired gun.
It goes without saying: Adding Jones would give the Seahawks the best receiving corps in team history and the best in the NFL in 2021. And the Hawks could manage Jones’ workload as the No. 3 guy behind Metcalf and Lockett, ideally keeping him healthy and getting a bunch of big plays out of him.
New OC Shane Waldron helped Sean McVay put together some great plans in L.A. with three good receivers. Imagine what he could do with three great receivers.
This is surely a win-now consideration for Seattle, bolstered by Wilson’s apparent communication with Jones. The question is: How serious are the Hawks?