A few days leading up to the 2021 NFL Draft, reports regarding teams calling about a potential trade for Julio Jones surfaced. Atlanta Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot addressed the rumors saying while they hold Jones in the highest regard, he will always take calls regarding any player.
Fontenot has repeatedly said any decision he and head coach Arthur Smith make will always be in the best interest of the organization. He's also stated the team is currently in a bind with their cap situation. There's a lot that will be figured out over the course of the next few months with players returning to the facility for the voluntary offseason program.
"It's a challenge, and we knew it was going to be a challenge, and we're fine with that," Fontenot said. "It's just we have to continue going through that process. We still have work to do just to be able to sign our draft class and be able to operate throughout the year."
Veteran quarterback Matt Ryan fielded questions from the local media for the first time since the Falcons' final game of the 2020 season and several were regarding Jones and his future.
Ryan and Jones have played together since Jones was drafted in 2011. Not only has Jones been the most consistent offensive target Ryan has had throughout his career, the two have also become leaders in the locker room. Both Jones and Ryan have been voted team captains in year's past and remain two of the most influential players in the organization.
Jones has meant so much to Ryan that when Atlanta's starting quarterback was asked about if he's thought about what his offense would look without Jones in it, Ryan didn't want to let his mind go to that particular place.
"He's been such a cornerstone of what we've done for a long time," Ryan said. "It's a hypothetical, I don't really want to go down that road because it's not my business. He's been such a great player. I love him. We'll see how things shake out. He's probably impacted my career more significantly than any other player. I've been really fortunate to be around him for as long as I have."
Jones, 32, signed a three-year contract extension with the Falcons in 2019 worth a reported $66 million. The team reportedly restructured the contracts of Matt Ryan, Jake Matthews and Deion Jones to get under the cap prior to the start of free agency. Jones' contract wasn't one the team restructured.
The seven-time Pro Bowler played in nine games last year as he suffered a hamstring injury that kept him sidelined for majority of the second half of Atlanta's season. Jones caught 51 passes for 771 yards and three touchdowns in the games he saw action in last year. In 10 seasons with the Falcons, Jones has started 134 games and caught 848 passes for 12,898 yards and 60 touchdowns.
And while the talk will continue, Ryan isn't worried about it affecting him or Jones and their preparations this offseason.
"I know this, he's always ready to go," Ryan said. "He's an incredible competitor, he's one of the best to ever do it at his position. He will have himself ready to go, there's no question about that."
With the sixth pick of the 2011 NFL Draft, the Atlanta Falcons selected WR Julio Jones who quickly became a top target for QB Matt Ryan and a leader on the Falcons offense.