Late for Work 4/27: Ravens Are Favorites to Land Julio Jones If He's Traded

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Falcons WR Julio Jones

Ravens Are Favorites Land Julio Jones If He's Traded

It didn't take long for pundits to start speculating which teams would or should be interested in trading for Julio Jones after NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported that teams were calling the Atlanta Falcons about the All-Pro wide receiver's availability.

Not surprisingly, the Ravens were a popular pick as a trade partner. In fact, SportsLine.com has the Ravens as the favorites to land Jones if he is traded.

"It's almost shocking the Ravens haven't addressed the [wide receiver] position yet this offseason (Antonio Brown is still a possibility) and they could take a wideout with their first-round pick Thursday," wrote SportsLine.com's Matt Severance, who apparently doesn't consider signing Sammy Watkins as addressing the position.

It's not the first time Jones has been linked to the Ravens. Two months ago in Late for Work, we noted that Bleacher Report's Kristopher Knox included the Ravens acquiring Jones as one of his "realistic trade scenarios."

So how realistic is it?

According to Rapoport, completing a deal for Jones would be "incredibly complicated" for any potential suitor and wouldn't happen until after June 1 due to salary cap reasons. Jones has a $23 million cap hit in 2021 and a nearly $20 million hit the following two seasons.

"This Julio Jones contract [is] great for him, amazing for him. [It's] one of the worst contracts I've ever seen for a team to sign," Rapoport said. "At some point, someone might make it worthwhile for them to get out from under that contract. The way it would work potentially is the Falcons would agree to a deal in principle before the draft. The trade would involve next year's draft picks, not this year's. Then it would be executed after June 1."

A receiver of Jones' caliber — he had seven straight 1,000-yard-receiving seasons before injuries limited him to nine games and 771 yards last year — undoubtedly would be a huge boost for the Ravens passing attack, but his age (32) and expensive contact would have to be taken into consideration.

"It won't be easy to find a taker for Jones," Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio wrote. "Given the recent injury history and the magnitude of the contract, teams may not be lining up for a player who quite possibly is in decline."

Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer wrote that it would likely take "a first-round pick or some equivalent" to land Jones, but NBC Sports' Peter King thinks a second-round pick would suffice.

"As for the interested team or teams, I would guess Las Vegas; Jon Gruden couldn't resist Antonio Brown, and I doubt he could resist Julio Jones. New England too, and a couple of teams with clear receiver needs — Tennessee and Baltimore," King wrote.

Pro Football Focus proposed a trade in which the Ravens would send a 2022 second-round pick and fifth-round pick to the Falcons for Jones.

PFF's Steve Palazzolo said on the PFF NFL Podcast that the Ravens "would be a prime candidate" for Jones, but his colleague, Sam Monson, disagreed even though he said the biggest need for the Ravens is a No. 1 wide receiver.

"They showed no inclination of answering that question this offseason. I don't think, therefore, they're going to answer it with Julio," Monson wrote.

The Ravens did reportedly pursue one of the top free-agent wide receivers on the market this year (JuJu Smith-Schuster). And the Ravens reportedly inquired about trading for All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (who is four years younger than Jones) last year before the Houston Texans ultimately dealt him to the Arizona Cardinals.

Ravens Are Reportedly Fielding Calls for 31st-Overall Pick

Now that the Ravens have two first-round picks (Nos. 27 and 31 overall) in Thursday's draft thanks to the Orlando Brown Jr. trade with the Kansas City Chiefs, the question has been raised as to whether they will use them to either trade up or back.

CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora tweeted that the Ravens are fielding calls for the 31st-overall pick.

NFL Network analytics expert Cynthia Frelund proposed a trade in which the Ravens trade that pick to the Las Vegas Raiders in exchange for a second-round pick (No. 48) and third-round pick (No. 80).

"While the Ravens would lose one first-round pick, they'd still have No. 27 at their disposal. And they'd possess an abundance of Day 2 selections: Nos. 48, 58, 80, 94 and 104," Frelund wrote. "I looked at my 'availability probability' model to study which fit-specific players would be available to Baltimore in the first three rounds of the draft.

"Here, the combination of right tackles, wide receivers and edge rushers increases by 0.5 wins with this hypothetical trade. Think of pick 31 as 'worth' 0.3 wins, based on historical contributions in Year 1. Thus, the Ravens would be 'giving up' 0.3 wins in order to 'earn' 0.5 — that is a 66 percent increase."

NFL.com's Marc Sessler thinks the Ravens should move up to grab one of the top wide receivers in the draft.

"When looking at who should trade up, you first have to assess who can trade up. The Baltimore Ravens are in a perfect position to make a move after gaining an extra first-round pick in the Orlando Brown trade," Sessler wrote. "The Ravens have been aggressive in the past trading up in Round 1 (see: Lamar Jackson), and now it's time to help Lamar and the Ravens' feeble pass offense by targeting the dynamic Jaylen Waddle."

Ebony Bird's Michael Natelli also thinks the Ravens should trade up for Waddle, the Alabama wide receiver who has drawn comparisons to speedy Chiefs receiver Tyreek Hill.

"It's time for [General Manager Eric] DeCosta to take a big swing to finally get his man, and that man is Jaylen Waddle," Natelli wrote. "Waddle is the perfect chess piece for an offense that absolutely needs to incorporate more screens and sweeps in the coming year, and his ability to turn quick crossing routes into huge gains should make life much easier for [Lamar] Jackson, who attacks the middle of the field as much as any quarterback in the league.

"What is perhaps most impressive about Waddle is the way his combination of speed, twitch, and a diverse route tree allow him to sell different routes and create separation."

Two Oklahoma State Players Among Ravens' First Three Picks in Jeff Zrebiec's Mock Draft

The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec released his latest mock draft in the wake of the Brown trade. Here's a look at the Ravens' top three picks and Zrebiec's comments:

Round 1 (No. 27): Teven Jenkins, OT, Oklahoma State: "This tackle class is deep enough where it's not impossible to find a Day 1 starting right tackle with one of the two third-round picks. Who's to say that some combination of a mid-round rookie, a veteran free-agent signing (Alejandro Villanueva? Dennis Kelly? Eric Fisher?) and roster holdovers Tyre Phillips and Andre Smith wouldn't be enough to adequately replace Brown? If Jenkins is available — and that's hardly a sure thing — he could make their decision an easy one. The former Cowboy is big (6-foot-6 and 317 pounds) and nasty, known for finishing his blocks and playing through the whistle."

Round 1 (No. 31, acquired from Chiefs): Trevon Moehrig, S, TCU: "The Ravens badly need an edge rusher and [Gregory] Rousseau and [Jayson] Oweh are enticing choices here. Moehrig, though, is the best safety in the draft and he brings a skill set the Ravens lack. He's a rangy and athletic playmaker with six interceptions and 21 pass breakups over his final two college seasons. He can hit and cover and he's also a standout special-teams player. He'd be a great complement to Chuck Clark and DeShon Elliott and give Defensive Coordinator Don 'Wink' Martindale more ways to attack and confuse offenses."

Round 3 (No. 94, acquired from Chiefs): Tylan Wallace, WR, Oklahoma State: "If Wallace is available late in Round 3, the Ravens should consider themselves lucky. Wallace is 5-foot-11 and 195 pounds, so he's not the big-bodied receiver the Ravens need. He is known for playing much bigger than his size with an ability to make highlight-reel receptions and outmuscle receivers for contested catches. He's not a burner, but he's a good route runner with reliable hands and toughness to punish defenders when the ball is in his hands. He had 27 touchdowns over his final three college seasons. Wallace would be a nice addition to the Ravens' receiving corps."

J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards Snubbed From Top-5 Running Back Duos List

The Ravens have reason to feel good about their 1-2 punch at running back of J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards, but the talented young pair did not make Bleacher Report's Maurice Moton's list of the top-5 running back duos.

Moton noted that the Indianapolis Colts' Jonathan Taylor and Marlon Mack edged out Dobbins and Edwards for No. 5.

"Baltimore Ravens running backs JK Dobbins and Gus Edwards garnered some consideration here, but Jonathan Taylor and Marlon Mack have done a little more in their respective careers," Moton wrote.

Ravens Wire's Kevin Oestreicher pointed out that Dobbins and Edwards combined for more scrimmage yards (1,777) than Taylor and Mack (1,524) and Moton's fourth-ranked duo — the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Ronald Jones and Leonard Fournette (1,743).

Dobbins rushed for 805 yards and averaged 6.0 yards per carry last season. Edwards has rushed for 700-plus yards and averaged more than 5.0 yards per carry for three consecutive seasons.

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