Seahawks Takeaways: Could star WR Julio Jones land in the NFC West?

May 25, 2021, 8:50 AM
Seahawks WR Julio Jones...
Star WR Julio Jones has made it clear he wants traded from the Atlanta Falcons. (Getty)

Two of the biggest stories in the NFL this week aren’t directly related to the Seahawks, but both could affect the Seahawks.

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Here’s what every Seattle fan needs to know about this week’s NFL headlines:

The story: Julio Jones says “I’m outta there” regarding future in Atlanta

The question: What are the odds he ends up with Seattle?

Very low. But the veteran receiver appeared to confirm his time with Atlanta has ended during a phone call with “Undisputed” host Shannon Sharpe that aired live during the show.

It’s still unclear whether Jones knew he was on television – making this one of the weirder stories this week – but when Sharpe asked the star receiver whether he wants play for the Dallas Cowboys or whether he’ll remain in Atlanta, Jones replied, “Oh no, I’m outta there, man.”

Is it tempting to wonder what Jones would look like in Seattle’s offense? Absolutely. But the Seahawks don’t have the cap space to take on Jones’ huge deal. Jones is due a guaranteed $15.3 million base salary this season, which is the highest salary of any player on Atlanta’s roster. That would make him the second-highest paid player in terms of base salary on Seattle’s roster behind only Russell Wilson. OverTheCap currently gives Seattle just under $7 million in space.

A more intriguing question is whether Jones ends up in the NFC West, a thought that should be making Seahawks fans nervous. That feels like a longshot at least for the Los Angeles Rams, who have roughly the same amount of cap space as Seattle. The likeliest candidate in the division might be – brace yourself – the 49ers, who have $17.6 million in cap space (though closer to $10 million in effective cap space, according to OverTheCap).

San Francisco has a talented roster that will return some of its biggest stars from injury, but it lacks depth at wide receiver behind Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel. The best hope for Seahawks fans? Keep your fingers crossed that another team offers more draft capital or talent. The 49ers parted ways with a pair of future first-rounders to trade up to No. 3 overall in this year’s draft.

The story: Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers reportedly won’t participate in OTAs this week

The question: Are offseason changes going to affect the on-field product? When will veterans report? What are the short- and long-term effects of these vets skipping voluntary workouts?

A couple loaded questions here for a loaded topic.

I’ll start with this: OTAs are voluntary workouts. Many of the veterans who opt out are likely involved in some sort of training outside of the facility. If you’re a player, you could argue this allows you to specialize your training (or, in a pandemic, limit the people you’re exposed to). If you’re the team, you might argue that you’d prefer the player participate in your program, or that he be present for team building, or perhaps that you don’t want to guarantee his salary if he’s injured away from your facility. Making matters trickier, if you’re a player still just hoping to earn a spot on the roster, you may find yourself stuck between a desire to put yourself in front of the coaches while also supporting your union and more established teammates.

Like I said, it’s complicated.

That said, I would still expect Russell Wilson and the rest of the Seahawks veterans to participate in training camp later this summer. There’s also a mandatory minicamp in June that will be watched closely for veteran attendance. Keep an eye out for updates there beginning June 15.

While the NFLPA has every right to voice concern about potential injuries and COVID-related safety measures, this has also felt like the precursor to a larger conversation about the workload of players in the offseason. And in all honesty, reflecting on whether a long-standing approach is still the best one is healthy activity for any business. What we know after one year with an abbreviated offseason (an admittedly small sample size) is that the product looked largely the same on the field. What we also know is that the most successful players in the NFL don’t reach this point in their career by skipping hard work.

What we don’t know is the very thing that makes this complicated: whether changing the structure of the NFL offseason would affect the league long-term, or whether the NFLPA and NFL can find a happy medium between the desires of star veterans and younger or less established players.

Follow Stacy Rost on Twitter.

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