The Hawks won Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals to take an early-series lead against the Philadelphia 76ers. The Braves defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers, 4-2, to win two of three over the reigning World Series champions this weekend.
Sounds like an all-around wonderful sports day for Atlanta. Instead, it wasn’t because the Falcons reportedly came to terms on a trade agreement to ship two-time All-Pro wide receiver Julio Jones to the Tennessee Titans.
It’s probably a bridge too far to state it doesn’t matter what the Falcons received in return for Jones. Obviously, getting a second-round selection is better than a third-round pick. Had a team offered a first-rounder, that would have been even better for the Falcons.
But no compensation changes the fact Jones, arguably the greatest player in franchise history, will no longer be playing in Atlanta. Call me and the upset section of the Falcons fanbase nostalgic all you want. Even in an era where few players finish their careers with the teams that draft him, that’s sad.
Jones made it abundantly clear in his phantom interview on Skip and Shannon: Undisputed that he didn’t want to be in Atlanta anymore. Whether it was the contract, Matt Ryan’s arm strength, or wanting to play for a 2021 Super Bowl contender, Jones did not want to be part of the Falcons anymore.
So a deal was necessary. Even still, that doesn’t make it any less sad.
Headlines will read that the Falcons new regime failed to acquire a first-round pick for the team’s best player. You can be upset about that too, but considering the position Jones placed the organization in following that interview, his injury past (Jones missed five of the last six games in 2020) and age (32), the package the Falcons received was about the best they could have hoped for this offseason.
Whether you agree with me on that point about the compensation received or not doesn’t change the fact this is a sad day for Atlanta sports.
Before agreeing to a new contract extension with Jones before the 2019 season, Falcons owner Arthur Blank said the wide receiver would be a “Falcon for life.” Less than two years later, Jones will no longer wear black and red.
In a way, Blank’s statement will still be true. Jones left an undoubtable mark on the Falcons and Atlanta sports. He led the NFL in receiving twice while posting seven 1,000-yard receiving seasons. Jones departs ranked first in receptions (848), first in yards (12,896) and second in touchdowns (60) in Falcons history.
For that and all the memories, no tribute video is worthy of saying goodbye. But Sunday, the Falcons released one anyway, and it will surely cause a few tears to weld in the eyes of Atlanta sports fans.
But that’s a tribute video that Atlanta fans wanted to see when Jones was ready to retire. Not before a season where the Falcons are hoping to retool on the fly to make another run at the postseason with a 36-year-old quarterback.
Even if the Falcons had managed to land a first-rounder in this deal, because the trade is happening during June instead of in April, the Falcons won’t reap the full benefits of it for at least a year if not two or three. Sure, they opened salary cap space now, but by the time that 2023 fourth-round pick the Falcons will reportedly receive from Tennessee is ready to make an impact, Ryan could be turning 39.
There will be plenty of time to analysis and debate compensation for Jones later. For now, it’s just sad that it’s the end of a terrific era for the Falcons.