The transaction indicates that the Falcons probably don’t believe they will be a factor in the NFC playoff race in 2021.
It didn’t help that Jones seemed to clamor for a change after 10 years in Atlanta, but if the team really thought they could contend, they probably would have held on to him.
Now that the Falcons’ all-time leading receiver has been shipped to Tennessee, we’ll take a look at three other moves Atlanta should make to help re-shape their franchise.
3. Sign Le’Veon Bell
Atlanta’s pass-catching corps still figures to be competitive (more on that in a moment), but there’s no denying that it took a step back on paper after the Jones trade.
As a result, the Falcons can’t rely on a gameplan that involves 55 to 60 passing attempts each week and expect to win.
They’ll need to involve their running game a little bit more than they have since the departure of former offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan.
Currently, their roster is a little bit thin with viable ballcarriers.
Cordarrelle Patterson has been a nice jack of all trades, master of none type of player in recent years, but he’s not the type of player who can carry the ball 15-20 times.
Atlanta signed Mike Davis away from the Panthers, but he’s always been more of a complementary back as well.
The Falcons should take a hard look at bringing Le’Veon Bell in for one season.
Save for the one year he missed due to a contract dispute, and the 2015 season, he’s been a pretty durable back.
While he’s assuredly not the same All-Pro type player he was in Pittsburgh, Bell can still fit in with a stable of other competent running backs.
He can also help replace some of the receiving production vacated by Jones.
2. Use Kyle Pitts Outside
In the eyes of many, the Falcons selected the player with the highest ceiling of any prospect in the 2021 NFL Draft.
You would be hard pressed to find any evaluator who would go on record to say that Kyle Pitts was anything less than a star in the making.
The former University of Florida dynamo figures to be a huge part of the Falcons plans moving forward, and might be among the top two or three tight ends in the game in a few years.
New head coach Arthur Smith already seems to have big plans for Pitts, who has reportedly been utilized early and often in mini-camp.
Lining him up outside in Jones’ old position would be a beneficial move for the team.
Pitts already seems to have the goods as a pass catcher and has excellent physical traits, and highlighting those would be in the Falcons’ best interests.
Young tight ends often take a lot of time to develop because they have to learn blocking schemes and route trees.
Utilizing Pitts primarily as a receiver will help alleviate that learning curve.
Rookies 🤝 Vets pic.twitter.com/KvLR48qtoa
— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) May 18, 2021
1. Trade Matt Ryan
While the Falcons have a couple of awfully impressive blue-chip prospects to work with in their future, it doesn’t really move the needle for veteran quarterback Matt Ryan right now.
Even with the explosive tandem of Jones and Calvin Ridley to work with the past three years, the Falcons have finished 7-9, 7-9, and 4-12, respectively.
Ryan is still a solid player under center at 36, but it’s hard to envision him leading the team back into the postseason with a questionable running game and the loss of Jones.
— excel sports (@excelsm) September 10, 2020
It’s probably not what Arthur Smith would want in his first year as a head coach, but the franchise would be greatly served by moving Ryan to the highest bidder, and restacking the deck ahead of the 2022 NFL Draft.
It would be the practical thing to do in year where the team figures to be .500 at best.