KC Chiefs: What would a potential Julio Jones trade really require?

ATLANTA, GEORGIA - NOVEMBER 08: Julio Jones #11 of the Atlanta Falcons reacts after scoring a touchdown during the third quarter against the Denver Broncos at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on November 08, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GEORGIA - NOVEMBER 08: Julio Jones #11 of the Atlanta Falcons reacts after scoring a touchdown during the third quarter against the Denver Broncos at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on November 08, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

The subject of whether or not Julio Jones is worth a closer look for the K.C. Chiefs has been debated for quite some time now, and the lines have already been drawn to the point where it’s unlikely that someone is going to change his/her mind. For some, the idea of spending further draft picks to bring in an older or recently injured receiver is not exciting at all, not to mention the financial ramifications of a deal. For others, Jones remains an elite wide receiver who could be a significant offensive upgrade in an offseason where the Chiefs pursued JuJu Smith-Schuster (and others) and were denied.

But let’s freeze that debate for our purposes in this column. Instead of asking yes or no, let’s assume the Chiefs are interested in some sort of high-level acquisition at the position. It’s not as if the Chiefs have made another move to make up for not signing Smith-Schuster or Corey Davis, and Sammy Watkins is now spending his days learning the Baltimore Ravens playbook. The Chiefs could be just fine with Demarcus Robinson, Mecole Hardman, Byron Pringle and others, but their actions didn’t say that two months ago.

If the Chiefs were interested in bringing in Jones, what would it cost? Let’s take a look at some of the trades already proposed among media members and NFL analysts.

What would a Julio Jones really cost the Chiefs?

ESPN analyst Bill Barnwell predicts that Jones will land with the Jacksonville Jaguars for the cost of a second round pick (which would certainly come in the top half of the round) along with last year’s second-round pick wide receiver Laviska Shenault. That’s two young cost-controlled talents coming back to Atlanta, including one known quantity who can help replace the lost production of dealing Jones while saving significant money.

That’s an even more robust return than what Albert Breer says could make it work. Breer noted that a single second round pick could be enough to get it done for Atlanta. If so, that makes things palatable not only for the Chiefs but for several other teams as well, which would inevitably drive the price back up. However, Breer also notes the Falcons wanted a first for him, which would be tough sledding for most teams. So perhaps that means a second and something? If so, then Barnwell could be right in range with the Jaguars’ entry.

Pro Football Focus did some thinking on our behalf in Chiefs Kingdom and recently proposed the following:

This deal could be the sort of future draft assets that a new regime in Atlanta would covet, even above a young player like Shenault, since it gives them full control of how to use these picks on players that they have selected. It’s all a mystery, of course, but every front office will be convinced that they can make the right calls and will likely covet a draft pick over someone proven unless the talent is obvious.

But back to the Chiefs here. Next year’s draft class is coming in with all kinds of hype as an especially deep one, and the Chiefs have already rid themselves of a couple draft assets. They swapped their fifth round pick in the Orlando Brown Jr. trade earlier this offseason, although they do get a sixth round pick back from Baltimore. Then they traded a sixth (the better of either their original pick or the Ravens) to the Minnesota Vikings in return for Mike Hughes and a seventh round choice. In summary, the Chiefs have seven picks but lack a fifth round pick and will instead have two in the final round.

To suddenly lose two picks in the top 100 of such a draft feels like a big loss for a team that’s going to need more and more cost-controlled talent as long as they keep locking up guys to major contract extensions. Given that deals are still needed for Brown, Tyrann Mathieu and perhaps others (Charvarius Ward is going to hit free agency and Tyreek Hill is entering a contract year, as just two examples), it feels a bit much to part with two prime picks.

Back to the Barnwell sort of idea: what about a pick and a player. While everyone would love to preserve each and every draft pick, the reality is that Jones is an elite wide receiver and would immediately take the Chiefs offense to unknown levels—yes even above when Watkins was healthy. Even in only 9 starts last year, Jones had 51 catches for 771 yards and 3 scores. In addition, Jones’ contract is very palatable for the next couple seasons, so it’s not a one-and-done for the Chiefs here, and the trade of draft picks should be viewed through such a lens.  In other words, trading one draft pick makes sense here (as does reaching to secure Jones’ services in our eyes).

It’s going to take more than a second-round pick from the Chiefs knowing that pick will be outside the top 50 in the draft (and likely into the top 60). That means the Chiefs have to deal a player. The team has a solid roster, but depth is a concern at a few positions. However, here are a few options:

Mecole Hardman

If the Jags are serving up Shenault, then it makes sense for the Chiefs to do the same with their only young, cost-controlled asset. Hardman has ungodly speed and would immediately provide a serious boost as a downfield target for the Falcons. He would also be a game-changing special teams asset. He’s highly motivated to show what he can do in year three as he grows into a more well-rounded receiver, and maybe being out of Tyreek Hill’s shadow would allow him to reach such heights. As it stands, if the Chiefs trade for Jones, then someone from the wide receiver room is on the outs.

Laurent Duvernay-Tardif OR Andrew Wylie

Here’s the list of names who can play right guard at this point (considering Joe Thuney is an ironman who has left guard locked down): Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, Andrew Wylie, Kyle Long, Mike Remmers, Trey Smith. It’s our guess that Lucas Niang could potentially slide inside, Thuney could swap sides, and that even Martinas Rankin, Nick Allegretti, Yasir Durant or even Daryl Williams could fill in if needed. Maybe Austin Blythe could slide over, too? Basically the Chiefs went shopping and filled their carts almost too full.

At some point, the team is going to have to thin the competition a bit, and it makes the most sense that we’ll see a deal or two before active roster cuts are made heading into September once the roster battles are finished. But it’s also possible the Falcons would like an upgrade, especially at guard, where they look the weakest and could use the sort of boost provided by either LDT or Wylie. While neither player is a Pro Bowler, both are certainly capable of providing the team with an average to above average performer and dependable starter with championship experience.

Darrel Williams

This move would be a bit of a surprise as the Chiefs love Wiliams and even rewarded him this offseason as a restricted free agent with a solid boost in pay to $2.1 million. They also let Damien Williams walk in order to keep Darrel, and they trusted him in the postseason more than anyone expected. The only reason we’re including him here is that running back in Atlanta is a barren wasteland of talent. (Mike Davis is RB1.) Clyde Edwards-Helaire is locked in for lead back reps after learning the ropes for a years and Jerick McKinnon is also in the RB room, and it’s possible for the Chiefs to find a free agent who could round out the competition in free agency. This is a total long shot, of course, but really this whole exercise is likely frivolous so just go with it.

Khalen Saunders

Saunders is one of the most “available” players on the Chiefs, although he’s certainly not officially on the trade block. However, he was crowded out last year by Turk Wharton, who was a rookie free agent, and he’s still present along with Chris Jones, Derrick Nnadi and newcomer Jarran Reed. In short, there’s not a lot of reps for Saunders, who apparently needs exactly that to grow into the sort of high-ceiling talent that the team envisioned when they took him in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft.

The downside here is that defensive tackle isn’t that great of a need in Atlanta either. Grady Jarrett is a monster and Tyeler Davison is decent. The team also has recent second, third, and fourth round picks still in the wings in Marlon Davidson, Deadrin Senat, and John Cominsky, respectively. Saunders could be a appreciated asset here, but it’s hard to believe the Falcons would see him as a cornerstone to any Julio Jones deal.

In light of all of this, if the Chiefs were to walk away with Julio Jones in a potential trade, it feels right to include a pick and player(s). To that end, a deal that would include a second round pick (again likely in the 60s) and Hardman could form the base of a deal. Maybe it would need to include a 2023 pick as well. It’s possible the Falcons would want Hardman and Wylie. Let’s see how this looks.

Potential trade offers

Idea No. 1: 
Chiefs trade: 2022 second round pick, 2023 4th round pick, Mecole Hardman
Falcons trade: Julio Jones, 2023 6th round pick

This trade would hurt a bit more in the draft process than what anyone would like, especially if Jones is set to hit the wall anytime soon, but this sort of upside play is worth the chance, especially since the assets are staggered between drafts. And in a solid deal, both sides should feel some pain. For the Falcons, they lose a franchise icon, but they also gain an under-appreciated wideout in his place who has speed for days and two solid draft assets for a new front office to use as they please.

Idea No. 2: 
Chiefs trade: 2022 second round pick, Andrew Wylie, Khalen Saunders
Falcons trade: Julio Jones

For the Falcons, this would give them two younger players to shore up their lines while also earning back a significant draft pick. From there, they could allow competition to bolster the trenches and perhaps even shop an asset of their own if things seem overcrowded. For the Chiefs, they retain Hardman’s speed and potential although D-Rob would have to be pissed at this point after returning for another year. So be it. The Chiefs lines would certainly be fine even after this trade, although selling low on Saunders isn’t anyone’s favorite move.

How would you feel about the potential trade offers here? Sound off in the comments and let us know what you think. 

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