Rost: 2 reasons why Seahawks should trade for Julio Jones (and 2 reasons why they shouldn’t)
Leave it to the Seahawks – a team that has always been willing to be part of a shocking trade – to be at the center of a new wave of trade rumors around Atlanta Falcons receiver Julio Jones.
ESPN’s Dianna Russini on Sunday reported that the Falcons have had discussions with Seattle over a possible trade of Jones. She added that quarterback Russell Wilson has spoken to Jones “about the possibility of playing together.” The 32-year-old two-time All Pro receiver is expected to be traded this offseason, but so far there’s been no clear front-runner.
Before listing the reasons a trade would (and wouldn’t) be the right move for Seattle, I’ll start with a disclaimer: it’s hard to find a way that this would be feasible for the Seahawks, save a significant roster move. Seattle has $7.2 million in effective cap space, according to OverTheCap, and would need to find a way to absorb Jones’ $15.3 million guaranteed salary. Doing so would require a cut elsewhere, or a restructure of larger deals – those of Bobby Wagner and Russell Wilson, for example, who together account for about a quarter of Seattle’s cap space.
That said, there’s nothing wrong with a little speculation…
Two reasons the Seahawks should trade for Julio Jones
The offense isn’t as deep as you think.
Trading for Jones may feel like adding another weapon to what feels like a crowded group of skill position players in Seattle, but the Seahawks have little depth or experience at wide receiver behind DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. And for as much as head coach Pete Carroll wants to re-emphasize the run, Seattle has struggled with keeping its running backs healthy. Neither Chris Carson nor Rashaad Penny have ever played a full season. To Carson’s credit, however, that feels like a rarity for most running backs today. Tennessee’s Derrick Henry was the only halfback with 1,000 or more yards to start 16 games last year.
You can never have too many receiving weapons.
Those weapons have become increasingly important in today’s NFL. The offenses in last season’s conference championship games all averaged around 30 points per game, with Green Bay (31.5), Tampa Bay (30.8) and Buffalo (29.9) occupied the top three spots. During their hot start to the season, the Seahawks led the league with 34.2 points per game. That averaged dropped to 29 points from Week 10 through their Wild Card loss to the Rams. And take out a 40-point win over the Jets in Week 14, it drops all the way to 20.6 points per game.
Two reasons the Seahawks shouldn’t trade for Jones
It’s not worth the sacrifice when they have needs elsewhere.
There’s an argument to be made that the money spent on Jones would be better spent elsewhere. In fact, someone made that case. Here’s what ESPN’s Dominique Foxworth had to say this week:
“The idea that (Jones) going to Seattle makes them a Super Bowl contender, I think, is a little bit absurd. Their issues are not with pass-catching. Their receiving corps can only get so much better, and I think that defense is still a problem, that offensive line is still a problem, and they’re gonna have to become the Brooklyn Nets and just outscore everybody going forward if that’s what they think they’re going to do up there.”
I disagree with the idea that adding Jones isn’t significant enough to make Seattle more of a contender – Jones is one of the most productive receivers of the last decade – but Foxworth’s overall sentiment here is fair. Look no further than those four teams in last year’s conference championships. As mentioned previously, they all scored near or above 30 points per game, but the team that ultimately took home the Lombardi Trophy (and nearly lost it in the Bay) was the one with, by far, the best defense.
Unfortunately for the Seahawks, they don’t have the same weapons Tampa had last season when it comes to defense. The Bucs spent in free agency ahead of their Super Bowl run but also had a few years worth of first-round picks after not making the postseason since 2007 (that includes five picks in the top 10).
They’re not working with the same draft capital, but fair or not, the Seahawks will still need to get off to a quicker start this year. They’ll be facing off against a few loaded offenses and will be without defensive tackle Jarran Reed and cornerback Shaquill Griffin, who signed elsewhere. Even with impressive second-half improvements last season, Seattle’s 30th-ranked pass defense must improve in 2021.
Those needs also extend to other contracts. Seattle will need to find funds for an extensions for safety Jamal Adams and, potentially this upcoming offseason, Metcalf.
Seattle’s track record of taking advantage of big trades isn’t great.
The Seahawks got little out of their deal for star receiver Percy Harvin and never quite figured out how to use tight end Jimmy Graham. And if you thought it was hard for fans to stomach the bad fit given the potential of both players, it’s even tougher given the draft picks Seattle gave up to get them.
The difference this time around is that Seattle’s offense is the strength and primary investment of the team. But that still might not be enough to make it the best fit for a receiver like Jones.
Jones wouldn’t just have to share targets with Metcalf and Lockett; he’ll also be in an offense with fewer targets overall to go around. The Falcons passed on 62% of all plays in 2020, 67% in 2019, and 65% in 2018. Seattle was 14th in pass play percentage in 2020 (59.6%), and that was a huge jump from years prior (54.3% in 2019, 47.5% in 2018).
That may not matter at all to Jones, an older veteran who admittedly is hoping to play for a contender. Being in Seattle would give him that and allow him to play with a top tier quarterback. But there’s one person with the keys to open things up, and his name isn’t Russell Wilson.