Even though a blockbuster trade of Julio Jones could be seen coming from a mile away, the transaction still sent shockwaves throughout the NFL this past weekend.
Jones was traded by the only team he’s ever known, the Atlanta Falcons, to the Tennessee Titans for draft picks.
This will help jumpstart the rebuild for the Falcons, and place lofty expectations for 2021 on the Titans.
Tennessee has made the playoffs in each of the last two seasons, and acquiring one of the best wide receivers in the last decade will make them attractive as preseason picks to upset Kansas City in the AFC.
Let’s break down whether Jones’ arrival will really catapult the Titans into serious contention for the conference and the Super Bowl.
A second and a 5th for Julio Jones..
25+ NFL fan bases should be questioning everything their front office is doing https://t.co/unO6S2DBGv
— Pat McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow) June 6, 2021
Why The Titans Can Contend For A Super Bowl
On paper, it seems like the Titans present a challenge that will keep most opposing defensive coordinators up all night.
If a team decides to stack the box with eight or nine defenders near the line of scrimmage, Jones and rising star wide receiver A.J. Brown will be left with advantageous single coverage.
If a defense decides to play back and support their secondary so Jones and Brown can’t beat them deep, running back Derrick Henry can feast against players trying to tackle him one on one.
While Ryan Tannehill might never be viewed as an elite, upper echelon option at the quarterback position, he definitely has enough weapons to make Tennessee one of the most explosive offenses in the game.
His success the past couple of seasons has been predicated on Henry’s ability to set up the play-action pass.
In 2021, however, that threat is not actually needed with wide receivers on the outside who can create separation.
Tannehill has done a great job protecting the football in his two years with the Titans, and won’t beat himself.
Why The Titans Will Not Contend For A Super Bowl
Although the Jones trade is an extremely splashy move, it doesn’t automatically mean that the Titans will be penciled in for a conference championship game or the Super Bowl.
As great as Jones has been throughout his career, his pairing with Matt Ryan in Atlanta did not yield a ton of consistent success in the playoffs.
It’s hard to blame one or two players for a lack of playoff advancement, but the fact of the matter is that while Jones has plenty of NFL experience, he doesn’t have a ton of experience coming through when it matters most.
Atlanta also had a difficult time building a defense during Jones’ tenure there, and the Titans will need to greatly improve their output on that side of the ball in 2021 to contend.
Additionally, it will be interesting to see how just available Jones will be for his new team.
He suffered multiple setbacks with hamstring injuries in 2020, which limited him to just nine games last year.
He’s been a largely durable player, suiting up for at least 13 games eight of his ten years, but it’s fair to wonder whether soft tissue injuries will play more of a factor for the 32-year -old pass catcher.
Verdict: Tennessee Will Contend For A Super Bowl in 2021
— Kevin Byard (@KevinByard) June 6, 2021
There’s no doubt that Jones is still a high level weapon when he’s on the field.
Even if he’s not able to play as much as the Titans would like, they’ve built an offense and an identity that doesn’t rely on big time games from wide receivers.
The offense still figures to run through Henry, who figures to be able to carry the team for another couple of years in his age-27 and 28 seasons.
Anything the team gets from Jones with regards to stretching the field, or drawing attention away from Brown, will make their team hard to defend.
The Titans are now officially in the same class of contention in the AFC with Buffalo and Kansas City.