Rams Out On Julio Jones?

The Rams have discussed Julio Jones, but they’re not currently in the mix for the wide receiver (via PFT). While things could change, the cost appears to be too high for a team that’s already short on draft capital.

[RELATED: Rams Discuss Julio Jones]

The Falcons are seeking a first-round pick in exchange for the multiple-time All-Pro. Meanwhile, the Rams have already surrendered their 2022 and 2023 first-round picks to the Lions in order to acquire Matthew Stafford. And, similar to Atlanta, they’re tight against the cap. Jones is due a guaranteed $15.3MM this year. Beyond that, he’s set to make $15.5MM in 2022, with a couple million already locked in, followed by another $11.5MM in 2023.

The Rams would love to have Jones (who wouldn’t?) but going the next three seasons without a first-round pick would be a challenge, especially when considering that Jones is 32 and coming off of injury. They also don’t need Jones as badly as, say, the rival Seahawks, who are hoping to placate Russell Wilson with a top-tier target.

For now, the Rams’ WR group is headlined by Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, legendary deep threat DeSean Jackson, 2020 second-round pick Van Jefferson, and 2021 second-round pick Tutu Atwell.

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Jets Likely To Roll Over Most Of Their Cap Space?

As Rich Cimini of ESPN.com observes, the Jets are second in the league with roughly $25MM of cap space, and they will still be in good shape after signing their top four draft picks (which will result in a $9.1MM cap charge). That $25MM figure does not include the cap savings the team will realize from guard Alex Lewisrecent paycut, and New York could create still more room if it’s able to hammer out an extension with franchise-tagged safety Marcus Maye. Even if that doesn’t happen, GM Joe Douglas will have a ton of flexibility.

However, Cimini gets the sense that while Douglas may acquire a veteran or two to fill a specific need, he will not make any major moves. Instead, Douglas will be perfectly content to roll the bulk of his unused dollars into 2022. And if the cap takes the massive spike that was recently reported, the Jets could be armed with around $80MM to attack the first wave of free agency next year. Douglas would obviously love to see his club take a step forward in its rebuild in 2021, which might allow him to be more aggressive next offseason than he has been to date.

Cimini’s report is not terribly surprising, as there just aren’t many big-money additions to be made at this point in the league year. The Jets are not in the mix for the top two trade candidates at the moment, Aaron Rodgers and Julio Jones, and while another edge rusher like Everson Griffen might make sense, such a transaction won’t have a major impact on the team’s cap.

Cimini does believe the club must add a cornerback. New head coach Robert Saleh might be interested in reuniting with Richard Sherman, though Cimini believes that is highly unlikely to happen, which leaves Steven Nelson as the best FA option at the moment. Of course, a player could always become available via cut or trade.

A veteran QB is also a must-add, in Cimini’s estimation. The Jets did make a run at Brian Hoyer before he elected to rejoin the Patriots, and like several of his fellow Jets beat writers, Cimini thinks a post-June 1 trade for Bears QB Nick Foles makes plenty of sense.

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Seahawks Interested In Julio Jones

Add another team to the Julio Jones sweepstakes. This morning, we learned that the Rams and Titans have discussed a Jones trade with the Falcons, with Tennessee being viewed as the likeliest landing spot. But as Dianna Russini of ESPN.com reports (via Twitter), the Seahawks have also talked trade with Atlanta. Russini adds that Seattle QB Russell Wilson and Jones have spoken about the possibility of playing together.

Earlier this year, Wilson was the subject of his own trade speculation, and one of the catalysts of those rumors was Wilson’s public dissatisfaction with his offensive line. The club acquired talented RG Gabe Jackson via trade but otherwise didn’t do a ton to supplement Wilson’s cadre of blockers. However, adding Jones to a WR corps that already includes D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett would probably make Wilson pretty happy, especially if new OC Shane Waldron implements a pass-heavy game plan.

Like several of Jones’ other suitors, the Seahawks do not possess a 2022 first-round choice. But most reporters are skeptical that the Falcons will actually get that type of value in a Jones trade, and it seems that a 2022 second-round pick is the more likely compensation. Seattle only had three selections in this year’s draft, which is reflective of the club’s willingness to move draft capital in exchange for proven talent, though if it were to deal its 2022 second-rounder, it would have to wait until Round 3 to pick its first collegiate player next year.

Plus, the ‘Hawks did select deep threat D’Wayne Eskridge in the second round of this year’s draft, and the team would need to create significant cap space to facilitate a Jones acquisition. So there are hurdles to be cleared if the Seahawks are serious about making a run at Jones, but it appears to be in the realm of possibility.

Meanwhile, reiterating his report from yesterday, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com says the division-rival 49ers are still a team to keep an eye on, and that the Ravens would be willing to get involved if the price is right (Twitter link).

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Latest On Matt Patricia’s Role With Patriots

After his disastrous tenure as the head coach of the Lions, Matt Patricia rejoined the Patriots in January. Of course, it was his time as New England’s defensive coordinator that led to Patricia’s rise to the head coaching ranks, and his disappointing two-plus years in Detroit did not shake Bill Belichick‘s confidence in his long-time lieutenant.

As Ben Volin of the Boston Globe writes, Patricia looks like he is being groomed for a major role with the Patriots, either on the coaching staff or in the front office. After former exec Nick Caserio became the Texans’ general manager earlier this year, there is a void in the New England front office, and Volin reports that Patricia is taking on some of Caserio’s responsibilities.

Perhaps most notable is the fact that Patricia has replaced Caserio as the “closer,” the man whose name is at the bottom of every free agent contract the Patriots signed this offseason. A former high-level NFL executive told Volin, “[t]he fact that [Patricia] is the one signing all of them, it certainly says that he’s intimately involved, and probably leading the internal organization around cap management and contract negotiations.”

Like Caserio and his predecessors, Scott Pioli and Floyd Reese, Patricia’s background is in the football side of things, not the financial/legal side. Belichick apparently believes that such an arrangement, which is fairly unique — most teams have their GM or salary cap administrator sign contracts — helps to expedite the process, since the “football guy” knows exactly who a player’s comparables are and how he fits into the team’s scheme.

Patricia, who was manning the phones during this year’s draft and who served as Belichick’s “sounding board” before the Pats selected Alabama QB Mac Jones, is not just being utilized in a front office capacity. Volin and Mike Reiss of ESPN.com noted that Patricia was standing alongside Belichick at practice this past week, and he worked with defensive linemen and observed defensive drills. Caserio also coached drills during his time in Foxborough.

To be clear, Eliot Wolf — who was hired last March — and assistant director of player personnel Dave Ziegler were also heavily involved in free agency and the contract process, so it’s not as if Patricia is a one-man show. Still, the 46-year-old has long been one of Belichicks most-trusted confidants, and he is presently looking like a real candidate to emerge as the team’s future GM or even head coach. As Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk recalls, the Rams came away from their 2017 HC interview with Patricia thinking that he might make a great GM down the road.

Because Patricia will be paid by the Lions through 2022, Volin suggests he could be with the Pats for at least the next two seasons.

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Rams, Titans Have Discussed Julio Jones Trade; Titans Now The Frontrunner?

10:35am: Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk says that the Titans, not the 49ers, are currently expected to land Jones, and that a second-round pick will be headed to Atlanta in exchange. Florio was clear that he is not reporting the Titans have offered or will offer a second-rounder, or that the Falcons — who are still holding out for a first-round choice — will accept it. He is merely pointing out that the general consensus among league execs is that a Tennessee-Atlanta trade featuring a second-rounder is the most likely outcome.

09:06am: Yesterday, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported that the 49ers are the team that has been most connected to Falcons receiver Julio Jones in league circles. Fowler also indicated that the Rams were in the mix, which was the first time we had heard Los Angeles pop up in Jones rumors.

Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network has taken that one step further, reporting that the Rams have discussed a Jones trade with Atlanta (via Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk). Like the Niners, the Rams would be unable to send a 2022 or even a 2023 first-round pick to the Falcons in exchange for Jones, as their top selections in the next two drafts have been traded away in separate transactions. So if Atlanta really does have an offer in hand that includes a 2022 first-rounder, it would seem that both San Francisco and LA would be out of the running.

However, there has been plenty of skepticism that a club has actually ponied up a first-round pick for Jones, especially given Atlanta’s limited leverage. Garafolo also expressed doubt that the Falcons will end up getting a first.

Their draft pick situation aside, the Rams also seem to be an unlikely fit since they have limited cap space and have already devoted considerable resources to the wide receiver position. The 49ers, on the other hand, have the cap space, the WR need, and an obvious connection to Jones in head coach Kyle Shanahan, Jones’ former OC in Atlanta. That is perhaps why the Niners are viewed as the clubhouse favorites for the seven-time Pro Bowler.

The Titans also have an obvious hole at wide receiver and would presumably love to have Jones on their roster. Garafolo says that Tennessee has indeed talked about a Jones swap with the Falcons. But if the Titans were to swing a deal, GM Jon Robinson would need to do a fair amount of maneuvering to create sufficient cap space, and Atlanta might need to absorb even more of a financial hit than it was planning on.

Right now, no deal is imminent, according to Garafolo. So even though the Falcons could realistically trade Jones this week — a post-June 1 transaction is the only way this ever made sense — it seems it will take a little longer than that to reach a resolution.

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Vikings LB Cameron Smith Medically Cleared

Vikings LB Cameron Smith might not be a household name, but his return to the practice field is still noteworthy. The 24-year-old, who missed the entire 2020 campaign due to open-heart surgery, has been medically cleared to play, as Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press tweets.

Smith has had a tumultuous start to his pro career. Despite less than impressive measurables, his instincts and collegiate production as a four-year player at USC got the Vikings’ attention, and Minnesota selected him in the fifth round of the 2019 draft. He did not survive final cutdowns at the end of his first training camp, though he was quickly signed to the Vikes’ practice squad after he cleared waivers. He was promoted a few weeks later, saw action in a couple of games, and was waived again, only to end up back on the Vikings’ taxi squad before getting another promotion.

In all, he played five games in 2019, compiling eight tackles. Last August, during a COVID test, doctors discovered his heart condition. “COVID saved my life,” Smith said (Twitter link via Tomasson). The Vikings put him on waivers in a procedural move when they realized he would need heart surgery, and he subsequently reverted to season-ending IR (the club paid him his full $675K salary).

Now, Smith has rejoined his teammates, though he will still have an uphill battle to see significant burn on the defensive side of the ball. The Vikings are returning Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks, and Minnesota also nabbed North Carolina LB Chazz Surratt in the third round of this year’s draft. Surratt is likely the favorite to land the weakside ‘backer job alongside Barr and Kendricks, but Smith will try to push him for playing time. If nothing else, he could carve out a role on special teams.

Speaking of Barr, the four-time Pro Bowler was also back on the practice field this week, as Tomasson tweets. Barr missed all but two games of the 2020 season due to a torn pec, and he reworked his contract this offseason. He will now be eligible for free agency next March.

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This Date In Transactions History: Chiefs Promote Chris Ballard, Brett Veach

Despite going 50 years between their second and third Super Bowl appearances, the Chiefs have become the AFC’s best team to start the 2020s. They became the only non-Patriots AFC team to reach back-to-back Super Bowls since the Broncos more than 20 years ago and, per BetOnline.ag, are slight preseason favorites to win Super Bowl LVI.

Although Andy Reid is rightfully associated with the franchise going from a 2-14 2012 season to seven playoff appearances over the next eight years, the Chiefs developed some front office talent during this span. The Reid-John Dorsey power structure included key lieutenants, and two of those — Chris Ballard and Brett Veach — took steps toward future GM posts on this day six years ago.

On May 29, 2015, the Chiefs promoted both to the jobs they held when GM offers came. Ballard rose from Chiefs player personnel director to director of football operations, and Veach climbed to a co-director of player personnel post. Both execs served as key Dorsey sidekicks, with Ballard in particular drawing frequent outside interest. Ballard and Veach came to Kansas City along with Reid in 2013.

The Bears, Ballard’s team before he joined the Chiefs, interviewed he and Ryan Pace for their GM post on the same day in January 2015. That job ended up going to Pace, who remains Chicago’s GM. Ballard also surfaced on the Jets and Lions’ GM radars and interviewed for the Titans’ GM post that went to Jon Robinson. The Chiefs denied the 49ers permission to speak with Ballard in early 2017. The Colts hired him months later.

Veach has worked with Reid since breaking into the NFL as an Eagles intern in 2004. A step behind Ballard in Kansas City, Veach did not interview for any outside GM jobs like his former coworker. But the Chiefs ended up promoting him to replace Dorsey, whom Clark Hunt fired in June 2017, shortly after Ballard left for Indianapolis. Both GM rises have produced success.

The Colts quickly rebounded from three straight playoff absences, having made the playoffs in two of the past three years. Indianapolis did so despite some stunning sequences — Josh McDaniels‘ bailing on a head coaching agreement and Andrew Luck abruptly retiring — proving temporary setbacks. Although measured in free agency, Ballard, 51, has been aggressive on the trade market in recent years — as deals for DeForest Buckner and Carson Wentz have shown.

Following the Chiefs’ Super Bowl LIV victory, the team gave Veach a six-year extension. Veach, 43, played a key role in the then-Dorsey-led Chiefs trading up for Patrick Mahomes in 2017 and as GM helped give the superstar quarterback help. After revamping Kansas City’s porous defense in 2019, Veach extended Mahomes, Travis Kelce and Chris Jones in 2020. The Mahomes deal remains the NFL’s richest pact, at $45MM annually, though its 10-year structure stands to benefit the Chiefs.

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Grant Delpit Expects To Be 100% By Training Camp

The Browns have devoted considerable resources to their secondary this offseason. They gave John Johnson top-10 safety money, added ex-Johnson Rams teammate Troy Hill and then spent their first-round pick on cornerback Greg Newsome. But the team has multiple high picks returning from injury.

Neither Greedy Williams nor Grant Delpit played a down last season, with injuries sidelining the LSU alums. Delpit has yet to debut for the Browns, having suffered a torn Achilles’ tendon last summer. But the 2020 second-round pick expects to be 100% by training camp, Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer notes.

While Delpit acknowledged he is still battling some pain from the injury, he indicated his rehab endpoint is near. The Browns, like 28 other teams this year, open training camp July 27.

I’ve done a lot to come back in rehab and just do all of that right now. I’m doing sprints, cutting and all of that,” Delpit said, via Cabot. “Just on the backend of my rehab now and just trying to get rid of that annoying pain. It’s coming along, and I should be ready by training camp.”

This is a positive development for the former first-round hopeful. Delpit’s timeline appeared foggier in April, when he indicated he was a few months away from full clearance. One of the top players from LSU’s unbeaten national champion team, Delpit suffered the injury in late August last year. These injuries can prove troublesome, even post-rehab, but the recovery timetable generally ranges from nine to 12 months.

Set to return all 11 offensive starters, the Browns will have several new defensive cogs. Delpit will count toward this, despite not being a new addition. The returns of he and Williams will give the team considerable depth and help a defense that ranked 25th in DVOA last season. Cleveland lost a few role players here, with Kevin Johnson, Terrance Mitchell and Andrew Sendejo no longer on the roster. The 2019 Thorpe Award winner joins Johnson and Ronnie Harrison as Cleveland’s top safeties. Harrison’s presence figures to allow the Browns to build up Delpit after the injury.

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Falcons Setting High Price For Julio Jones; 49ers In Mix

Kyle Shanahan did not indicate a reunion with Julio Jones was off the table, and it now looks like the 49ers are involved in these sweepstakes.

The 49ers are the team coming up most regarding Jones around the league, according to ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler, who indicated during a SportsCenter appearance San Francisco is in the mix for the seven-time Pro Bowler — to some degree. While the 49ers would not be able to match the reported offer of a first-round pick, they do have a strong roster equipped to contend in the NFC this season. A healthy Jones would certainly help the team do so.

[RELATED: Shanahan Discusses 49ers’ Potential Interest In Jones]

The Trey Lance trade stripped the 49ers of their 2022 and ’23 first-round picks, so building a competitive offer will be more challenging — if a first-round pick is indeed on the table for Jones. The Falcons are still holding out hope for a big offer, with Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk noting the team’s asking price is viewed as “outlandish” in league circles as of Saturday. Four days remain until a Jones trade can realistically take place, and a few teams remain in this somewhat blurry picture.

Tennessee emerged as the first rumored landing spot, and Fowler adds Baltimore could join the fray if the asking price is right. The Ravens have been connected to a host of big-name receivers this offseason, and while a few of them declined free agency offers, Jones’ attitude regarding their run-heavy offense would not matter in a trade for a player with a no-trade clause. The Rams, despite their crowded receiver room, also popped up in Fowler’s report. Los Angeles and Baltimore have done plenty to add at receiver this year; each franchise used its first draft pick to address the position and each signed a veteran (DeSean Jackson and Sammy Watkins, respectively). The Rams are often in the mix for high-profile trade targets, but they would not seem a fit. They have Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp signed to lucrative long-term deals.

Conversely, the 49ers’ top two receivers — Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk — are on rookie contracts. San Francisco has avoided splashy receiver signings since their 2017 Pierre Garcon deal did not work out, but Shanahan did sign off on sending third- and fourth-round picks for Emmanuel Sanders in 2019. That trade made a difference in the 49ers reaching Super Bowl LIV. Jones, 32, enjoyed his most productive season — a 136-catch, 1,871-yard 2015 showing — during Shanahan’s two-year Atlanta OC stay and would be in a better position than most late-summer arrivals due to his experience in the well-regarded play-caller’s offense.

The Falcons are still asking interested teams to pay all of Jones’ $15.3MM 2021 salary — a tough sell for most, given the limited cap space around the league — and $2MM in 2022 guaranteed pay, Florio adds. Jones is due base salaries of $11.5MM in 2022 and ’23. The 49ers hold more than $17MM in cap space, which ranks in the top 10. The Patriots have come up as Jones suitors as well, but they may be cooling on this prospect.

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Latest On Jaguars’ Tim Tebow

As you might have heard, the Jaguars signed Tim Tebow earlier this month. According to head coach Urban Meyer & Co., Tebow will be competing for a roster spot as a tight end. But, around the league, executives believe that Tebow is actually being groomed as more of a wildcat quarterback (Twitter link via ESPN’s Dianna Russini). 

[POLL: Will Tim Tebow Make Jaguars’ Roster?]

Given Tebow’s background, a Taysom Hill type of role could make sense. A hybrid position also give him a better chance of making the final cut. The Jaguars already have a full house at tight end, with Chris Manhertz, fifth-round rookie Luke Farrell, Tyler Davis, James O’Shaughnessy, and Ben Ellefson on board. Ditto for quarterback, where No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence is backstopped by Gardner Minshew, C.J. Beathard, and Jake Luton. Whether or not Minshew stays, the Jags will carry no more than three QBs on their Week 1 roster with three or four tight ends, max. In theory, Tebow could provide a bit of roster flexibility if he’s slotted as the No. 3 QB/No. 4 TE.

In any event, it’s hard to peg Tebow’s odds of actually making the roster. At last check, ~46% of PFR readers said that Tebow will make the 53-man roster, ~29% predicted he’ll be dropped entirely, and ~25% said he’ll land on the taxi squad. And, in case you’re wondering, Tebow still has the No. 1 selling jersey in the NFL.

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