Falcons GM Terry Fontenot open to trading Julio Jones: 'We are in a difficult [salary] cap situation'

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Jason Owens
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The short list of bonafide stars in Atlanta Falcons history is, well, short. 

There's Deion Sanders, who built his Prime Time persona in Atlanta before securing his Hall of Fame credentials in San Francisco and Dallas. There's Michael Vick, who revolutionized the quarterback position with the Falcons before, well, we all know what happened.

And then there's Julio Jones, the 10-year veteran whose toolset as a prototype NFL wideout is surpassed only by his performance on the field. 

There's a decent chance he has played his last game in an Atlanta uniform.

Falcons GM: 'You have to listen' to calls on Jones

After a Monday filled with reports that the Falcons were fielding calls for the seven-time Pro Bowler, first-year general manager Terry Fontenot confirmed that the team is open to trading Jones. He addressed the reports in an interview with Fox 5's Justin Felder on Monday night.

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"You have to listen if people call — on any player," Fontenot said when asked about Jones trade reports. "Especially — we are in a difficult cap situation. That's just the circumstance. ...

"Obviously — that particular player — we hold him in high regard. He's special in what he's done and what he continues to do here. But we have to consider any player if it's right for the team because we have to do what's best for this organization."

Falcons in serious salary cap trouble

Fontenot's candor — while simultaneously avoiding saying Jones' name — speaks to Atlanta's realty in a 2021 salary cap crunch that the NFL has attributed to COVID-19 revenue losses. 

According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, the Falcons won't even have room under the cap to sign their upcoming draft picks without making some moves. Meanwhile, the three-year, $66 million extension Jones signed in 2019 carries with it a $23 million cap hit this season. 

TAMPA, FL - DECEMBER 29: Atlanta Falcons Wide Receiver Julio Jones (11) during the second half of an NFL game between the Atlanta Falcons and the Tampa Bay Bucs on December 29, 2019, at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, FL. (Photo by Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Is Julio Jones' time in Atlanta done? (Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Freeing themselves of Jones' contract would go a long way in easing the Falcons' cap crisis. Even as it would accompany the painful decision of freeing themselves of Jones, a genuine home-grown star who surpassed the expectations attached to his first-round pedigree out of Alabama in 2011. 

The Falcons would presumably prefer not to trade their franchise cornerstone, but if a contender seeking a veteran superstar with some gas left in the tank is willing to take on his contract, Fontenot is listening.

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