If I had to bet, I’d bet that the Baltimore Ravens won’t acquire Julio Jones before the season starts.
Why it is that I HAVE to bet is a more than reasonable question. Imagine someone approaching you with a weapon. You say, “What do you want? My car? My wallet? My watch? They say, “NO! WORSE! I want you to risk an amount of money that might ultimately allow you to recoup a significantly larger amount of money, you fool!”
But I guess one never knows, so I’ll stick with the unlikely scenario. If I had to bet, I’d bet against the Ravens acquiring Julio Jones. I mean, the Baltimore Ravens making three significant wide receiver acquisitions in the same offseason?
That’s about as likely as a 50 year old man winning the PGA Championship. That’s still not very likely.
After signing veteran Sammy Watkins and using their first draft pick on Rashod Bateman, it would be reasonable to assume the Ravens believe they have “addressed” the position this offseason and that making another move that requires paying a significant draft capital or economic price (or in this case, both) would be something they’d be less inclined to do. Doing this much at the position in one offseason would be literally unprecedented. And by literally, I actually mean literally.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean they couldn’t do it. And it sure as hell doesn’t mean they shouldn’t. In fact, it would shameful for a team to think that a Watkins acquisition is part of a true “solution” at receiver.
I probably don’t have to sell you on Julio Jones. He’s very good at football. He battled a hamstring issue last season that caused him to miss seven games and he recently turned 32, but he still managed to post more than 85 yards per game last season. Plus, he had missed only one game total during the three previous seasons combined. Every league source I’ve spoken to has suggested that there’s no reason to believe he’d be a liability health-wise or that there’s any reason to think he’s about to reach a proverbial cliff from a football standpoint.
Moreover, at this point in his career it seems more likely that Jones would be up for the challenge of being a receiver in Baltimore. There are no more big money long-term contracts coming for him. His spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame is secure. The only thing left for his legacy is to win a Super Bowl. Those close to the Falcons seem to believe he’d be more inclined to take on a role where his numbers might not be as massive as they’ve been previously and that his work with Calvin Ridley last season proves he’s ready to be a more primary mentor.
According to The Athletic’s Jeff Schultz (who is very well connected to the Falcons), the team has accepted that the compensation for Jones will need to be less than a first-round pick. There has been a suggestion that means it might need to be a creative combination of draft picks and/or young players. But in a Glenn Clark Radio interview May 21, Schultz suggested the Falcons (who don’t even have the cap space to sign their draft picks currently) might need to take back a player in order to make a Jones deal work, as the acquiring team might not be in a place to absorb the entirety of his $15.3 million salary.
There aren’t really great options on the Ravens’ roster for making something like this work. If they plan to play Jimmy Smith more at safety (or if they believe Brandon Stephens could quickly take on a significant role), they could trade DeShon Elliott and save more than $2 million against the cap to try to get Julio Jones under the threshold. It might be more desirable than giving up more draft capital, particularly if they think they’ll lose Elliott to free agency next offseason.
From a football standpoint, there’s an argument against a Jones acquisition based on the idea that the Ravens are likely to still largely be the same run-first, run-quite-often Greg Roman offense they’ve been for the last couple of years. While we can fairly expect some tweaks to Roman’s system in his third year as coordinator, why invest so heavily at receiver if you’re not going to be throwing the ball 40-plus times a game?
The answers should be obvious. The Ravens still need to throw the ball. Lamar Jackson is still developing as a passer (particularly outside the numbers). Even if Julio Jones is only 80 percent of what he once was, he demands significant attention, has continued to be a reliable target and opens more of the field up for Bateman, Watkins, Hollywood Brown, the tight ends and Jackson’s legs.
As the Ravens approach the time when they’ll need to give an even larger percentage of their cap to Jackson, they’d do well to give him his best possible chance to succeed.
This really is the right move. It’s the right player at the right time, and while the Ravens are capable of succeeding without him, it would be so smart for them to acquire him.
But again, if I’m forced to bet (seriously, what are you going to force me to do next? Purchase cryptocurrency?), I’ll bet it doesn’t happen. Which would be a shame.
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