NFC Notes: Julio Jones, Buccaneers, Panthers

Julio Jones

  • According to Albert Breer of, Atlanta’s salary cap will likely be a problem again in 2022, regardless of what happens with the situation involving WR Julio Jones.
  • Aside from Jones, the team has given massive contracts to QB Matt Ryan, OT Jake Matthews, LB Deion Jones, and DT Grady Jarrett.
  • Breer adds that Jones, through his agent, approached the Falcons about a trade back in March and has been eying an exit from the team for quite some time.
  • An NFL pro scouting director tells Breer that there are questions about how much Jones has left in the tank: “I think he’s still Julio in the sense that can change a game, whether it’s with his actual ability or his perceived ability,” an anonymous pro scouting director told Breer. “People still have to pay attention to him. But the last couple of years, when he’s not healthy, you’re limited with what he can do within the offense, since there are certain routes he can’t run. That limits where they line him up, and some coordinators are smart enough to figure out what he can and can’t run.” 
  • Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio says the way he understands it, the Falcons could have gotten a second-round pick for Jones if they had agreed to a trade before the draft that would have been executed on June 1.
  • Atlanta held out though and now Florio says it’s unclear if they’ll get even that, as some teams who were interested have moved on to other options. 
  • Chris Simms says Jones has the most interest in the Titans and Patriots as trade destinations. 
  • ESPN’s Jeff Darlington characterized Jones’ trade request as a “you can’t fire me, I quit” situation, as the new Falcons regime identified Jones as someone they needed to move on from due to his contract. 
  • Darlington adds the price has fallen now that the perception of Jones not being available is gone and he thinks the Falcons get a second-round pick at most, with a third being more likely. 
  • Falcons HC Arthur Smith didn’t want to discuss the situation with Jones publicly: “I’m going to keep those conversations we have with our players private” (Dianna Russini)


Buccaneers HC Bruce Arians said the team will utilize everyone in the running back room, including Leonard Fournette, Ronald Jones and Giovani Bernard

“Of all the positions, it’s probably the one where those two guys will compete,” Arians said, via Jon Ledyard of Pewter Report. “But they’re both gonna play. They’re so talented and they both bring so much to the table. Hopefully if they’re both healthy, they are splitting time. I know fantasy doesn’t like that, but those two guys . . . I mean, RoJo is one of the best runners I’ve been around. Lenny had that great run in the playoffs. He showed what they drafted him for in the top 5. So we’re blessed to have this group of backs, with Ke’Shawn [Vaughn] and Gio [Bernard]. It’s a hell of a group.”

Arians mentioned the team is most excited to add Bernard’s pass protection.

“It was huge. He’s an excellent receiver, but he’s a hell of a protector and he’s extremely smart,” Arians said. “You don’t see any blitzers coming through that weren’t supposed to be getting to the quarterback with [Bernard]. He’s a bright guy and he can really still play.”

Even though RB Ke’Shawn Vaughn is still behind the other three, Arians is still confident in him as a player.

“I think [Vaughn should] continue to grow as a player,” Arians said. “He’s a hell of a runner. Hell of a runner. He’s getting better as a receiver. Really bright guy, good blitz pickup guy. I would never be shocked if he was our lead dog. He has that type of ability to be our lead dog. You never know with injury. I mean, Lenny was sitting there not knowing what his role was. All of a sudden RoJo gets hurt, and he’s Playoff Lenny. So you never know in that room. You cannot have enough good backs.”


  • Panthers HC Matt Rhule said he just wants QB Sam Darnold to focus on getting better, nothing more right now. (David Newton)
  • Rhule noted S Jeremy Chinn (knee) and DE Brian Burns (shoulder) had minor surgeries in the offseason. (Joe Person)
  • Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey said he is fully healthy: “I feel good. I feel really good. I’m back to 100 percent and feel ready to roll.’’ (Newton)
  • McCaffrey has been impressed with Darnold so far in OTAs: “He’s very sharp. That’s something that is very exciting early. His decision making has been good. Sam’s very talented. He’s smart. He knows where to go with the ball. I love how everyone is responding to his urgency.” (Newton)

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