As a mild surprise, earlier this week, the Los Angeles Rams were moved up to the second-best odds to land wide receiver Julio Jones.
Odds to be Julio Jones next team via @DKSportsbook:
💰 New England: +450
💰 Los Angeles Rams: +500
💰 Tennessee: +500
💰 Atlanta: +600
Rams have moved from +6600 to +500 to land Jones since the odds opened a week ago 👀 pic.twitter.com/Ug4y0HOePL
— PFF (@PFF) May 28, 2021
This is surprising for a few reasons. The first is: with what assets? The second: With what cap space? It’s doubtful that any of the sports books have any inside information that would lead them to move the Rams in second behind the Patriots. The Rams were most likely forged into second due to their willingness to make big moves like this.
The Rams Lack of Cap Space and Assets
After all, the Los Angeles Rams don’t have a first round pick until 2024. That’s a pick that they could theoretically trade away. Additionally, according to OverTheCap they have $7.1M in cap space. As mentioned, it’s not as if the Rams have the cap or assets to make this type of move. This is a team that is in win-now mode, but we still need to be realistic.
Julio Jones is due $15.3M next season. Any team that trades for him is going to have to take on that contract. That means that the Rams would have to open upwards of $8M+ in order to make the trade. At this point in the offseason, that is unlikely.
Julio Jones Makes the Rams Better
Let’s get a few things straight however before we get any further. No matter where you stand on wanting to trade for Julio Jones, not wanting to make the trade because of the lack of assets or lack of cap space. That’s the argument that I’m making now and will continue to make.
HOWEVER, it’s not ok to not want to trade for Julio Jones because Van Jefferson or Cooper Kupp or Robert Woods. Yes, as Rams fans we love those players. Kupp and Woods and done incredible things for the Rams organization. Jefferson on the other hand is coming off of a 200 yard season and is arguably the team’s fourth or fifth wide receiver on the depth chart.
Let’s put fandom aside in this conversation and talk about just the players. Julio Jones when healthy is a top-5 wide receiver that has the ability to take over games. Neither Kupp nor Woods would crack the NFL’s top-15 and you could maybe make an argument for the top-20.
Jones makes the Rams better – it’s that simple. Again, a trade is likely not going to happen because of the cap situation and as a franchise, and it’s ok to point to that when arguing against a trade for Jones. As a franchise, it’s probably not a good idea to trade first round picks three years down the line.
However, the Rams shouldn’t hesitate on a trade because they’re worried about Van Jefferson’s development or they don’t want to trade Robert Woods. Julio Jones is better than any wide receiver on the Rams roster and better than any wide receiver that the Rams have had since Torry Holt.
Jones almost had 1400 yards two years ago. The last receiver to come close to 1400 yards was Holt back in 2004.
The Rams traded for Matthew Stafford in the offseason and are expecting him to have a career year. In order to guarantee that and give your team the best chance to win, if it’s possible, you give him a wide receiver like Julio Jones. We saw what Stafford was able to do when he had Calvin Johnson. It resulted in record-breaking numbers.
Salary Cap Makes a Trade Unlikely
With that out of the way, let’s now move to why the Rams likely can’t trade for Julio Jones. I won’t pretend to be a cap expert, so I won’t call it impossible, but I’ll just say that it’s unlikely.
As mentioned, if the Rams traded for Julio Jones, they would need to take on his $15.3M cap-hit. As it stands, the Rams currently only have $7.1M in cap space. That means, in order for a trade for Jones to get done, they would need to open up more than $8M.
Even if the Rams made Woods or Kupp available in a trade for Julio Jones, it wouldn’t open up enough cap space. Woods would only open up $2.5M and Kupp would result in a $7.5M cap loss. Even if the Rams made a player like Woods available, the effect on the cap isn’t worth it.
The Rams have explored moving Rob Havenstein in the past. Trading Havenstein would open up $6.75M. Havenstein could replace an inconsistent Kaleb McGary for the Falcons. This would open up a spot for someone like Bobby Evans to take over at right tackle. However, I don’t see the Rams messing too much with the offensive line.
Havenstein is the one player that might make some sense. The Falcons could focus on protecting Matt Ryan for the final few years of his career and get the cap relief that they need.
Another player that opens up space, but doesn’t make sense for either side is Tyler Higbee. Trading Higbee would open up $6.85M in cap space. However, this would leave the Rams with Brycen Hopkins, Johnny Hundt, and Jacob Harris at tight end. Meanwhile, the Falcons have Hayden Hurst and Kyle Pitts already.
The last option is something that’s over my head. Would it be possible for the Rams to extend or restructure a player like Stafford or agree on an extension for Jones prior to the trade in order to reduce his cap-hit? That’s an area that requires a cap expert, of which I am not.
What Could a Trade For Julio Look Like?
Again, I am in the camp that a trade for Julio Jones would be nice. It would be great to have Julio Jones in horns as he would make the team better. However, it’s important to remain realistic and understand the situation listed above. The Rams don’t have an immediate first round pick and they don’t have the cap space that other teams have.
Both of those situations make a trade for Julio Jones very difficult for the Rams. Any team that trades for Jones is going to be able to take on that $15.3M cap hit and would the Falcons be motivated to make a move for a pick three years down the line for one of their franchise’s all-time great players?
Rams get: Julio Jones
Falcons Get: Rob Havenstein + 2024 first round pick + 2022 2nd round pick
This is pure speculation, but something that might be possible. Trading Rob Havenstein gives the Falcons an upgrade at right tackle and opens up needed space for the Rams to make the trade. Moving Havenstein gets the Rams close. Cutting a bottom of the roster player would then get the Rams over the hump.
Atlanta probably won’t move Jones without a first round pick. Given their current situation, a first round pick down the line might actually be better for them as that’s when they are going to be rebuilding. However, a trade probably won’t get done without a pick next season. The Rams don’t have a first, therefore they trade a second round pick.
Again, I don’t think the Rams would move someone like Havenstein and mess with their offensive line, but this is one trade that might work for both sides.