After a turbulent offseason filled with rumors and speculation, the Atlanta Falcons have traded wide receiver Julio Jones and their 2023 sixth-round pick to the Tennessee Titans in exchange for a 2022 second-round pick and a 2023 fourth-round selection. Yep, Julio Jones traded to the Titans is the big news today!
Jones was drafted sixth overall in the 2011 NFL draft by the Falcons and has made all of his professional appearances with the team, amassing 12,896 yards and 60 touchdowns in 135 games. The Alabama native is also a seven-time Pro Bowler, three-time First-Team All-Pro selection, two-time receiving leader, and member of the All-Decade Team.
Rumors of Jones’ departure were confirmed a couple of weeks ago when Fox Sports’ Shannon Sharpe called Julio live on the air, where he told the Undisputed co-host “I’m out of there.”
An Elite Legacy
The newest member of the Titans only played in nine games last season, battling a hamstring injury for an extended stretch of the season. The Falcons struggled without their favorite playmaker, finishing in last place in the NFC South and with their worst record as a franchise since 2013, a year in which they had the league’s least productive rushing attack.
On top of adding a perennial top-five receiver in the league, the Titans did not have to give up a first-round pick for Julio, maintaining the integrity of their future in the draft.
Tennessee’s Offense is LOADED
Heading to Tennessee, Jones will be partnered outside the numbers with one of the league’s brightest young talents, AJ Brown. Drafted out of Ole Miss in the second round of the 2019 NFL draft, Brown has recorded 1,000-yard seasons in both of his professional seasons and has converted 19 of his 122 receptions into touchdowns, establishing him as a clear threat to break past the pylons.
The Titans also boast the league’s most productive running back in 27-year-old Derrick Henry, a physical force that has shown an increasing ability to impose his will against any defense in the NFL.
Henry carried the rock for 2,027 yards last season, the fifth-highest single-season mark in league history, and has an incredible three-year stat-line of 4,626 yards and 45 touchdowns on the ground.
Tennessee spent this year’s first-round draft pick on Virginia Tech cornerback Caleb Farley, allowing the rookie to practice against one of the league’s most special talents in Jones.
If Farley and Janoris Jenkins can mold themselves into a lockdown duo at the cornerback position, the Titans will be able to set their sights on seizing the AFC South’s regular-season crown.
Eyes on the Playoffs
Tennessee has made the playoffs in three of the past four years and were runners-up in the AFC in 2019, dropping the Conference Championship to the Kansas City Chiefs, 35-24. They were eliminated in the Wild Card by the Baltimore Ravens last season and will be out for revenge as a result.
The Houston Texans have been the preeminent favorite to win Tennessee’s division in recent years, but with the controversy surrounding quarterback Deshaun Watson and a seemingly dysfunctional front office, they are expected to flounder in 2021.
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The Jacksonville Jaguars and Indianapolis Colts have also made offseason moves expected to bolster their chances at competing, Jacksonville by hiring Head Coach Urban Meyer and drafting QB Trevor Lawrence and Indianapolis by trading for QB Carson Wentz, though it is hard to establish any one team as clear favorites in the division.
One of the situations to monitor will be Julio’s effectiveness in an offense that is known for its run-first style that does not appear to benefit Jones.
QB Ryan Tannehill has been impressive since ditching his Dolphins Jersey for the Titans’, finishing last season in the top-five for yards per attempt and yards per completion and showing that he can push the ball down the field with regularity.
This plays into the strengths of Julio, who built his reputation as an elite route-runner that can get open in a hurry and elevate for contested catches.
Opposing defensive coordinators will have their hands full next season game-planning for a Tennessee offense that can get it done through the air and on the ground. Just how far Julio can help carry the Titans is the million-dollar question.
Grant Mitchell is a sportswriter and multimedia contributor for the Sports 2.0 Network dealing with basketball, football, soccer, and other major sports: you can connect with him on Twitter @milemitchell to stay up to date with the latest sports news and to engage personally with him.