The Detroit Lions are entering this week’s NFL draft with the position of wide receiver clearly being their biggest need. And while there should be a plethora of young receiver talent for the Lions to choose from, could Detroit decide to use their limited picks to address other areas of need on their roster and trade for an All-Pro receiver instead?
It appears that opportunity does exist if NBC Sports’ Peter King is right about the possibility that the Atlanta Falcons are opening to trading wide receiver Julio Jones. King believes that the Falcons’ poor salary cap situation could force the team to move their longtime number one receiver.
There are two major obstacles in getting a trade done for Jones. One is his existing contract. Jones is scheduled to make over $38 million in base salary over the next three years. That includes a hefty $15.3 million price tag for 2021. That’s likely a big reason Atlanta is even considering trading away their superstar receiver.
Two, Jones turned 32-years old earlier this year and is coming off a season where he posted his worst statical numbers since 2014. The aging wideout recorded 51 receptions for 771 yards and three touchdowns in 2020 after being limited to nine games due to a lingering hamstring injury.
Now, that being said, the 6-foot-3, 220-pound Jones proved at times last season he is still capable of being an elite receiver when healthy. Against the Lions in Week Seven, he brought in eight of his nine targets for 97 yards. That performance was sandwich between two contests where Jones recorded 137 receiving yards in each.
Prior to last year, Jones had posted six-straight seasons with over 1,000 receiving yards and was elected to the Pro Bowl each of those years. In total, he’s a seven-time Pro Bowler and a five-time All-Pro who has led the NFL in receiving yards twice, was named to the NFL’s 2010s All-Decade Team, and could find himself in the Pro Football Hall of Fame one day.
As for the Lions, there’s certainly a need for a wide receiver like Jones in the Motor City. Detroit allowed the bulk of their receiver talent to leave this offseason and replaced them with free agents like Tyrell Williams, Breshad Perriman, and Kalif Raymond. The Lions will likely enter the 2021 regular season with the lowest-rated receiver corps in the NFL regardless of whom they draft later this week.
Adding Jones would be a huge benefit for new quarterback Jared Goff, who has the monumental task of replacing Matthew Stafford in Detroit without the benefit of his best wide receivers like Kenny Golladay, Danny Amendola, and Marvin Jones.
Yet, making a trade for a high-priced, aging wide receiver coming off an injury-plagued season seems like an unwise decision for a first-time general manager like Brad Holmes. As the former longtime director of college scouting for the Los Angeles Rams, Holmes undoubtedly wants to rebuild the Lions through the draft.
While adding a big name like Julio Jones to the roster would make a big splash for this new front office and coaching staff heading into their first season together, it would seem counterproductive to their plans to build the Detroit Lions the ‘right way’ for sustained for future success. So seeing Jones in Honolulu blue and silver anytime soon appears to be nothing more than a pipe dream.