How the Baltimore Ravens Could Trade For Julio Jones

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Prior to the 2021 NFL Draft, the Baltimore Ravens were reported to have shown interest in trading for Atlanta Falcons superstar wide receiver Julio Jones. Jones was a first-round pick of the Falcons in 2011 and has accumulated the most receiving yards in the NFL since being drafted. The Falcons are currently strapped to the cap ceiling and dealing Jones would open up a lot of necessary space for a team that currently cannot sign their entire rookie class. Baltimore currently has the third-best odds per Draftkings Sportsbook to land the former All-Pro receiver.

On Baltimore’s side, general manager Eric DeCosta has set out this off-season to find his former-MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson some receiving help. They have already signed Sammy Watkins from the Kansas City Chiefs and then doubled-down at receiver on draft weekend; selecting Rashod Bateman in the first round and Tylan Wallace in the fourth round. While neither Watkins, Bateman, or Wallace are proven first-option wide receivers, they appear to upgrade the depth at receiver the Ravens have had in recent years.

Baltimore does not have a clearcut number-one receiver on their roster and the concept of bringing Jones to Baltimore may be too hard to pass up. Every team could use a player of Jones caliber but the Ravens are have been looking to find a player exactly like Jones since Steve Smith Sr. retired in 2016. If DeCosta wants to add maybe the best wide receiver of the past decade, these are the stipulations that would have to be met in order to do so.

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Complications of a Julio Jones, Baltimore Ravens Trade

DeCosta Has Established A Trend of Aggressive Trades

Since taking over as the Ravens general manager in 2018, Eric DeCosta has shown he loves moving draft picks for potential starters. However, they are usually at bargain-bin prices.

He made his first big splash in 2019 when a struggling Ravens defense was ravaged by injuries in the secondary. DeCosta traded a fifth-round pick and linebacker Kenny Young to the Los Angles Rams for former defensive rookie of the year and All-Pro cornerback Marcus Peters. After being traded from Los Angeles, Peters became an integral part of a Ravens secondary that finished the season as the NFL’s third-best passing defense.

DeCosta made two trades the following year in 2020. The first was prior to the 2020 NFL Draft when he moved a fifth-round pick to the Jacksonville Jaguars for reigning Walter Peyton Man of the Year Calais Campbell. The second was mid-season when he dealt a third and conditional fifth-round pick to the Minnesota Vikings for EDGE Yannick Ngakoue. Ngakoue was traded from the Jaguars to the Vikings just three months earlier for a second and conditional fifth-round pick.

This year, DeCosta and the Ravens are already projected to have nine picks in the 2022 NFL Draft per Tankathon — all of which are in the first five rounds. Baltimore has a tendency for collecting and flipping picks and moving one or two picks for Jones could be DeCosta’s next big splash.

Could The Ravens Actually Afford Jones?

Jones cap hit over the next three seasons will become very manageable following the June 1st designation date and carries cap hits of roughly $15 million, $11 million, and $11 million over the next three seasons respectively. The Ravens have just under $10 million in remaining cap space for this upcoming season, per Over the Cap, but could find a way to fit Jones under the cap by shuffling a few contracts.

The biggest variable to maneuver then becomes the upcoming free agencies of multiple big-name Ravens. Lamar Jackson is currently eligible for a contract extension but with two years left on his rookie deal, his contract would not likely play into the decision of acquiring Jones. A potential extension from beyond his rookie deal would only overlap with Jones’s current deal for the 2023 season. Potential contract extensions of Mark Andrews, Bradley Bozeman, and DeShon Elliott on the other hand would overlap for multiple years.

Baltimore’s 2018 draft class was one of the best in their franchise’s history but it has forced the Ravens to get very creative in deciding who to extend. Trading Orlando Brown Jr. was the first domino to fall and extending one of Andrews, Bozeman, or Elliott could come in the following months. Each player has just one year left on their rookie deal.

Even with the cap set to explode in the coming years, trading for Jones would create multiple hurdles for DeCosta to get over. It doesn’t mean acquiring him is impossible, but the variables a trade for Jones would create may be hard to work around and potentially not worth the single-player.

Ravens Could Potentially Allocate Resources Differently

While finding receiver help has been a big priority of the Ravens this off-season, it isn’t the only position of concern. Baltimore’s pass rush took a large blow due to the losses of Ngakoue, Matt Judon, and Jihad Ward, and DeCosta could still be looking for more players to pressure opposing quarterbacks.

All of the Ravens outside linebackers currently have a total of 37 total starts and 25.0 sacks in the NFL since the start of the 2017 season. Defensive coordinator Don Martindale has established a very blitz-heavy defense but the inexperience of his EDGE group is not ideal. He continually deploys a large rotation of outside linebackers and the Ravens currently have the cap space to add one of the multiple experienced free agent EDGE’s.

Adding an EDGE or other position via free agency also does cost draft picks nor count against the compensatory pick formula. DeCosta has been very aggressive when it comes to trading picks for position players but he has not been reckless. He is also known for acquiring as much draft capital as possible so that he can pick and choose what to do with an abundance of picks. Jeff Zreibec of the Athletic reported that prior to the draft, the Falcons and Ravens had talked about a potential trade for Jones but they “gained no traction.

If the asking price for Jones is pumped up in a bidding war, holding onto high-value draft picks is a far more traditional move for the Ravens.

Probability of A Ravens deal For Julio Jones: Unlikely

Being able to acquire a player of Jones’s caliber at a position of need is not an opportunity that appears often. The Ravens are a team that is in the thick of the ‘Super Bowl contender’ conversation and Jones is the type of player who could potentially put them over the top. Baltimore’s biggest weakness since Jackson took over at quarterback has debatably been receivers that can make catches on the outside. Jones brings each sure hands, down-field prowess, and an ability to win contested catches near the boundary at 6’3″ 220 lbs.

However, it’s hard to see DeCosta giving up high draft picks for a wide receiver after having invested two firsts, two thirds, a fourth, and a sixth-round pick into wide receivers over the past three drafts. It is impossible to rule out a Ravens trade for Jones due to the perfect fit in Baltimore but it is hard to envision a trade coming to fruition due to the moves DeCosta has made this off-season. While adding a two-time All-Pro receiver would be great for Jackson, it is unlikely it happens in the Ravens current landscape.

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