Yet another potential landing spot — and preferred quarterback — has emerged in the Julio Jones trade sweepstakes.
Michael Holley of NBC Sports Boston reported Thursday that Jones has expressed interest in playing with Patriots quarterback Cam Newton, whom he saw twice a year for nine seasons from 2011-19. Holley's report came during an appearance on "Boston Sports Tonight."
"You know who (Jones) really wants to play with? ... He wants to play with Cam Newton. He likes Cam," Holley said. "That's the other thing: He thinks (Falcons quarterback) Matt Ryan has lost a little zing on his deep ball."
Newton and Jones have seen plenty of each other over the years, not only as NFC South division rivals — they were taken Nos. 1 and 6 in the 2011 NFL Draft, respectively — but also in college, where they played against each other in the Iron Bowl. Of course, Newton doesn't seem to be a major upgrade over Ryan if you look solely at his 2020 season: He completed 242 of 368 passes (65.8 percent) for 2,657 yards and eight touchdowns to 10 interceptions, while also rushing 137 times for 592 yards and 12 more scores.
Jones' production likewise suffered in 2020 because of a nagging hamstring injury that caused him to play in only nine games — the fewest since he suffered a season-ending foot fracture in the fifth game of the 2013 season. He accounted for 51 receptions, 771 yards and three touchdowns in 2020. That sort of production isn't enough to warrant his three-year, $66 million contract with the Falcons, who have also expressed interest in trading the 11th-year receiver to relieve some of their salary cap issues.
That said, New England has reportedly had internal discussions about trading for Jones, who would create a $23 million cap hit in the 2021 season. The Patriots, who rank 10th in the league with $20.2 million in cap space, certainly could make room for the seven-time All-Pro receiver. New England coach Bill Belichick has been agressive this offseason finding more targets for Newton, including receivers Kendrick Bourne and Nelson Agholor and tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith.
Even with those additions, however, Jones would step in and immediately become the No. 1 receiving target for Newton. He might also serve as a security blanket for Mac Jones, New England's first pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, should Belichick want to transition to the former Alabama quarterback. And the Falcons would absolutely prefer him to go to an AFC team as opposed to one in the NFC.
The trade rumor certainly is interesting, and a deal would make sense for both teams. Whether the Patriots and Falcons pull the trigger remains to be seen.