The Tennessee Titans won the Julio Jones trade sweepstakes on Sunday, acquiring the seven-time Pro Bowl wide receiver in exchange for a 2022 second-round pick and 2023 fourth-round pick in the NFL Draft, while also receiving the Falcons' 2023 sixth-round pick as part of the deal.
The New England Patriots, however, missed out on the star receiver, despite a need at the position and being reported as the favorites to land Jones prior to the deal's announcement.
The Athletic's Jeff Howe reports the Patriots are believed to have shown initial interest in acquiring Jones after reports of the Falcons' willingness to trade the receiver, but ultimately, needed the price point to change in order to make a deal.
"I believe the Patriots had some initial interest in Julio Jones very early in the process, but the price point was going to have to change, either with trade compensation or the Falcons eating money. It didn’t, and they moved on," Howe tweeted on Sunday.
The Patriots made a similar move with Atlanta two years ago, acquiring Mohamed Sanu in exchange for a second-round pick.
Jones' contract, however, could have been the deciding factor, as he's set to earn $15.3 million in base salary, which would have made him the Patriots' highest-paid player and given the team less flexibility in terms of cap space, as they are currently at $16 million.
WCVB's Christopher Gasper suggests New England was interested in acquiring Jones, but only at a specific price.
"My sense was that the Patriots were interested, but at their price and on their terms, in terms of compensation and Jones' contract. I think this basically confirms that," Gasper quote-tweeted in response to Howe's initial tweet. "I wonder if [head coach Bill Belichick] would stretch more for [Odell Beckham Jr.]?"
The Titans will take on $15.3 million of Jones' salary in 2023, as well as the rest of his current deal, while Atlanta will have $7.75 million in dead money during the 2021 season, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reports.
The Athletic's Jeff Schultz reported last month that the Falcons were actively trying to trade the Jones and have been since new general manager Terry Fontenot and head coach Arthur Smith were hired.
"The Falcons would like to trade Julio Jones," Schultz wrote (subscription needed). "That doesn’t mean it’s 100 percent that it’s going to happen. That doesn’t mean some members of the organization don’t believe the future Hall of Famer can still play, when healthy. But Jones’ availability on the trade market has been clear almost from the time new general manager Terry Fontenot and coach Arthur Smith landed in Atlanta and realized the extent of the team’s salary-cap problems."
Schultz's also listed five teams most likely to acquire Jones and noted that the Titans "may show interest," but needed to improve their salary cap situation in order to acquire the star wide receiver.
During an episodePFT Live on May 25, Pro Football Talk's Chris Simms said a source he trusts with knowledge regarding Jones' current situation claims the wide receiver had the Titans and Patriots "very much on his radar" amid reports that the Falcons were actively seeking trades for the seven-time Pro Bowler.
Jones has been one of the NFL's best wide receivers since being selected No. 6 overall by the Falcons in the 2011 NFL Draft. The 32-year-old currently has 848 receptions, 12,896 receiving yards, 60 touchdowns, and a 15.2 yards per reception average for his 10-year NFL career.