Julio Jones Trade to 1st Place Titans Solidifies AFC South Battle

Julio Jones joins an insane Titans offense

Updated: Jun 7, 2021 11:07 am

Julio Jones has found his new home. After an off-season of rumors and predictions dating back to pre-draft, the Titans finally emerge as the winner of the Julio sweepstakes. And yours truly called it! And not a moment too soon since my off-season QB predictions were shaky at best.

This news comes at the perfect time for the NFL media. AFC and NFC draft grades are already in, the schedule has been broken down over and over again. And many have already begun their divisional breakdowns. It was time for something new, something fresh, some actual news as opposed to analysis and predictions. The Falcons and the Titans gave us just that. Let’s take a deeper look.

The Trade

Before we begin analyzing this trade, we should probably start with the trade itself and the history behind it. The Tennessee Titans receive Julio Jones and a 2023 6th round draft choice. The Atlanta Falcons receive 2022 2nd round and 2023 4th round selections. With the move, the Titans move into serious contention for the upcoming season and the Falcons begin to plan for their future.

The trade rumors began shortly before the NFL draft as masses began to guess where Julio would be playing next season. Several, including yours truly, though there was a chance that he would be traded during the draft. Once it didn’t happen, the rumors died down for a bit hardly disappeared. There was little base to these rumors at this time, however, that was until late May.

On May 24, Skip and Shannon were hosting their show, Undisputed, when Shannon Sharpe decided to call Julio Jones on the air. Whether or not Julio knew he was on TV is widely debated. We do know, however, that he said he was out of Atlanta and wasn’t going to Dallas.


Shortly afterward, the Falcons made it clear that they were trading Jones. The rumors hit a fever pitch. Players around the league began recruiting him. The Seahawks, Cardinals, Patriots, Packers, Lions, Broncos, and others were all illuded to as great places for Julio. Teams began to send in offers.

Then, the news dropped around 1 pm, est yesterday: Julio was headed to the Titans. The rest is now current events.

Impact for the Titans

AJ Brown and Julio Jones jersey swap
AJ Brown and Julio Jones jersey swap

With the addition of Julio Jones, the Titans have made a giant (pun intended) splash in the AFC playoff picture. The Colts had a huge off-season with the additions of Carson Wentz, Eric Fischer, Kwitty Paye, and others. Add this to Tennessee’s loss of Corey Davis, Jonnu Smith, and their offensive coordinator, the tide of the AFC South seemed to be changing. The Titans were beginning to look like a wild card team.

But everything is different now. This simple addition turns a very good offense into one of the NFL’s best offenses. They go from being slight underdogs in the division to a team that could very well challenge the Chiefs and the Bills for the AFC’s Super Bowl berth. And when you get there, who knows what is going to happen. Why the sudden switch? How can I predict that with any certainty? Here’s how.

The Players

It is crystal clear that the 7-time pro-bowler adds value to the offense as a player, but his hidden value is much greater. Julio’s impact on the Titans’ other superstar players will be felt immediately. Especially in the cases of AJ Brown and Derrick Henry. He also makes QB Ryan Tannehill that much better. Below we will discuss these Titans’ players who benefited most from this trade.

Julio Jones

First, we start with the man who makes this all possible, none other than Julio himself. When the Falcons added TE Kyle Pitts in the draft their stacked offense became a little crowded. Julio could see the handwriting on the wall, as most of the other receiving weapons were young and talented stars. He knew a lesser target share was coming his way.

He also knew that he has plenty left to offer and did not want to settle into that role. In securing this trade to the Titans he has maximized both his target share and his opportunity to prove that he is still an elite receiver in this league. He will have every chance to put up a monster season for Tennessee.

Ryan Tannehill
Ryan Tannehil has a great new weapon in Julio
Ryan Tannehill has a great new weapon in Julio

It goes without saying that adding a weapon like Julio Jones gives any QB a boost. In Tannehill’s case, his presence is even more felt, however. A lot of Tannehill’s success comes off of the play-action pass. This is sometimes complicated, though, when Henry gets too many people pulled into the box, limiting overall mobility. With Julio on the field, opponents must respect the Titans’ elite WRs. Thus giving Tannehill more time to find the big-play off of the play-action.

I will also take the time to point out that Julio will make great use of the play-action style that Tannehill loves in maximizing the extra time to create separation. Tannehill is almost the perfect QB for Julio to have at this stage in his career.

AJ Brown
AJ Brown is excited to be playing with his idol
AJ Brown is excited to be playing with his idol

I’m not saying that AJ Brown still won’t see his share of elite CBs and double teams, but he clearly will not see as many of those looks as he would have seen before. With the receiving core before this addition, some teams may have had the luxury of giving him the triple team. Now, if any team were to dream of that, Julio will tear them apart.

Brown will have a much easier time in getting open as opposing defenses need to keep their eyes on all parts of the three headed monster that is the Titans O. When I podcasted about this earlier, I said the addition of Jones would probably hold back some of Brown’s numbers and big games, but upon further thought, I no longer agree with that. Brown’s value may have in fact gone up because he will now receive better looks. What’s more, he probably won’t even receive less looks, after all, the Titans’ situation is not nearly as crowded as others.

Derrick Henry
Derrick Henry and Julio Jones interacting before the game
Derrick Henry and Julio Jones interacting before the game

This one is freakishly obvious, teams will have to put fewer players in the box to prevent this passing game from going over 400 yards each week. Maybe a team that has the luxury of having two shut-down CBs can cheat and still stack the line, but those teams are few and far in between.

Now, I’m not saying that some teams won’t continue to treat Henry the same exact way. After all, he is coming off of an Offensive-Player-of-the-Year season in which he rushed for over 2000 yards and demands every ounce of respect. But there will be fewer teams that commit to attempting the shut-down of Henry. Heck, even the teams that commit to stopping him, maybe distracted as they see Brown and Jones run by them. Only great things can happen to a stud RB on an offense with an elite passing attack.

Fantasy Football

As far fantasy football goes, look for Tannehill’s value to significantly rise as a QB. I would say that Henry’s positional rank would rise if it wasn’t for the fact that he was already so high on the RB list. With that said, his total projected fantasy points should go up as a result of the addition. Brown should maintain his position but see his per-game average increase also. It is obvious that Julio’s value jumps up into a solid WR2 range. For something that requires a bit of thought, TE Anthony Frisker has probably become roster-able.

Impact for the Falcons

Ridley and Gage headline a young and talented WR core
Ridley and Gage headline a young and talented WR core

The youth movement is on for the Falcons and the rebuilding has begun. Though they just lost one of the greatest players in their history they now enter a new era with more optimism. This is hardly just about the draft picks they received in return (though those obviously help), it’s about correcting the mindset of the Falcons organization so that they can in fact move forward. Even with a wickedly talented offense, the Falcons were going nowhere as a result of their porous defense. The problem was that Matt Ryan and Julio Jones age made them feel like they had to continue to attempt to win now.

Not anymore. With Julio gone, the Falcons can now bring themselves to a point where they can replace Ryan with a younger QB in either the draft or free agency. The group of young, dynamic weapons on the offenses gives them the opportunity to lure in such a free agent and gives them a strong foundation for their rebuild. The future is bright for Atlanta.

The Players

You would think the loss of a player might make life more difficult on the team, but I almost feel like that’s the opposite here. Once the story was out Julio was going to be a distraction until something was done about it. What’s worse is that he would have taken snaps and targets away from the younger players they are now trying to develop.

With Julio no longer there, Calvin Ridley, Russell Gage, Kyle Pitts, Hayden Hurst, and many others will see opportunities that they have now seen in the past. In return, these players will not only develop stronger but will strengthen the team as a whole

Matt Ryan
Matt Ryan mourns the loss of Julio Jones
Matt Ryan mourns the loss of Julio Jones

Not every player benefits from Julio no longer being on the Falcons. Matt Ryan just lost his favorite target of the last decade and one of his top weapons. What’s more, he now knows that he’s next. Atlanta’s commitment to moving forward, combined with his age and his lack of production in recent years certainly spell doom for this veteran QB. Who knows, maybe he’ll be able land on his feet and get an even better job next year (Broncos?), but for now his fate slowly approaches.

Calvin Ridley & Russell Gage

Throughout last season it became apparent that Julio was slowly passing the torch to Ridley, but now it’s as obvious as it will ever be. Calvin Ridley is the number one WR on the Atlanta Falcons. This is a role that he has been groomed for and is now ready to overtake. By his side is friend Russell Gage who showed flashes of brilliance as he filled in for other injured players throughout the season. This is his chance to take a large step forward and fill the role of a WR2 for his team.

A WR like Christian Blake may also see an uptick in touch, as should gadget player Cordarrelle Patterson and TE Hayden Hurst. The Falcons have not shortage of weapons at all, and the presence of talented depth will push Ridley and Gage even farther to both keep their targets and lead their team.


Kyle Pitts
Its Pitts time now with Julio gone
Its Pitts time now with Julio gone

And then there is Kyle Pitts. This is the man that benefits most from this trade. With Julio gone, the rookie will see even a greater target share early in the season. This added work will not be without growing pains but will produce great yields for this generational talent. The sooner we can see more Pitts the better it will be for him, the Falcons, and the NFL. Julio just made it sooner.

Fantasy Football

Even with the insane amount of weapons, I’m not sure I would have been drafting Ryan either way. With Julio gone and his need to replace his favorite target early, I like him even less now. Russell Gage goes from fringe to startable in deep leagues and has solidified his place on fantasy benches in smaller leagues. Ridley and Pitts become obvious WR1 and TE1s respectively. Heck, you can now treat Pitts like an elite NFL TE when drafting if you wish to (obviously not above Kelce or Kittle). Hayden Hurst might now have value in deeper leagues, but still not draftable either way. I don’t see Mike Davis’ value affected at all.

In Conclusion

This was a win-win trade for both teams. Period. I will not listen to your counter-points. Even if it doesn’t turn out as wonderfully as I presented it, both teams had to make this move and both teams will benefit in some way from it. The Falcons have now acknowledged their need for a rebuild and have begun it. The Titans now boast one of the NFL’s best offenses. The present and future have both been satisfied.

Like what you read?

Check out the latest episode of my J-MiL4Real Podcast

Breaking News: Julio to Titans Podcast

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