Titans agree to deal with Falcons for Julio Jones

Sports

FILE – In this Sunday, Dec. 6, 2020, file photo, Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (11) warms up before an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints in Atlanta. The Tennessee Titans have traded with the Atlanta Falcons for seven-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Julio Jones, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press. (AP Photo/Danny Karnik, File)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Titans had been talking to the Atlanta Falcons about seven-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Julio Jones for nearly three weeks.

In the end, they pried Jones loose with a couple of draft picks, the highest being a second-rounder.

“We felt like it was good value for us, and Atlanta felt like it was good value for them obviously or they wouldn’t have done the trade,” Titans general manager Jon Robinson said Sunday, hours after the teams announced the deal.

Robinson said Jones still must pass a physical, and the Titans have “some things we’ve still got to work through” with the salary cap.

The Titans GM also wouldn’t discuss if Jones, under contract through 2023, will be getting a revamped deal in the trade from the defending AFC South champs.

“We’re going to always keep that mindset of being diligent with our approach and aggressive when we feel like we need to be aggressive,” Robinson said.

The Falcons will receive the Titans’ second-round pick in 2022 and their fourth-rounder in 2023 with Atlanta sending Jones and a sixth-round pick in 2023.

Jones will join an offense than already has Derrick Henry, the AP NFL Offensive Player of the Year, and a Pro Bowl receiver in A.J. Brown. The Titans ranked fourth in scoring in 2020, and this move shores up a big hole after losing wide receiver Corey Davis and tight end Jonnu Smith in free agency in March.

Robinson said his talks with Jones didn’t concern the number of passes Ryan Tannehill will throw his way.

“His goal is to win,” Robinson said.

Jones’ new teammates quickly endorsed the trade on social media.

“J Rob is a gangster!! The man is crushing it! @Titans,” left tackle Taylor Lewan wrote of Robinson on Twitter.

Tannehill’s answer was even shorter: “Let’s go!!!!!”

Henry, who also played at Alabama in college like Jones, had recently shared photos of himself working out with Jones on social media.

Brown had been lobbying hard for Jones to join the Titans on social media, and Brown shared a photo on Twitter on Sunday of himself, Jones and Henry all in Tennessee jerseys celebrating.

Los Angeles Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey also went to social media to express his feelings that his team missed out on Jones.

Falcons owner Arthur Blank said Jones’ place in franchise history is secure.

“Julio Jones will always be part of the Falcons story, having set numerous records and creating many great memories for all our fans, including me, since the day we drafted him,” Blank said.

“He has been a fixture on our team for almost half the time I have owned the Falcons. As we both move in another direction, I’m deeply grateful for what Julio has done for our team and what he has meant to our city and, in my mind, he will always be part of the Falcons family. I wish him nothing but the best in Tennessee and throughout his life.”

The Falcons shared a video of Jones on social media and wrote, “Because of you, 11 will always mean more.”

Jones’ $15.3 million base salary for this season is guaranteed, and he was set to cost the Falcons slightly more than $23 million against the salary cap next season. By trading him after June 1, they now split the dead money over two seasons, easing their tough financial situation.

And now the Titans have a wide receiver costing less in 2021 than if they had picked up the fifth-year option at $15.6 million for Davis, who signed with the Jets.

Jones holds Atlanta records with 848 catches for 12,896 yards, and his 60 touchdowns ranked second. He had a career-best 136 catches for 1,871 yards in 2015. He had six straight seasons with more than 1,300 yards receiving until being limited to nine games in 2020 by a nagging hamstring injury.

He ranks first in NFL history in averaging 95.5 receiving yards per game through 135 games, ahead of Calvin Johnson’s mark of 86.1 receiving yards per game.

Jones also is 20th in receiving yards and fourth behind only Jerry Rice (76), Randy Moss (64) and Marvin Harrison (59) for 100-yard receiving games with 58. Only Moss has a higher average per reception (15.6) than Jones (15.2) among all NFL players with at least 848 catches.

The Titans have five straight winning seasons that rank behind only Seattle and Kansas City in the NFL. They lost to Kansas City in the AFC championship game in the 2019 season.

Tennessee tied Buffalo for second with 396.4 yards per game in 2020 with Tannehill throwing for a career-best 33 touchdowns. Only the Kansas City Chiefs had more yards on offense, but Jones could help a passing offense that ranked 23rd in the NFL with 228.3 yards per game.

This is just the latest big deal by Robinson since being hired as general manager in January 2016.

Robinson traded the No. 1 overall pick in April 2016, and he also traded for Tannehill in March 2019 in a deal where Miami picked up a big chunk of the quarterback’s salary.

Robinson and the team signed both Tannehill and Henry, the NFL’s back-to-back rushing leader, to four-year extensions last year.

And Brown, the other big piece of the Titans’ offense, has two years left on his rookie contract.

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AP Sports Writer Charles Odum contributed to this report.

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Follow Teresa M. Walker at https://twitter.com/TeresaMWalker

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More AP NFL coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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