The 2021 NFL season won’t kick off for another three months, but a stunning trade disturbed the offseason and sent shockwaves across the league. After spending his first 10 seasons with the Atlanta Falcons, All-Pro wide receiver Julio Jones was traded to the Tennessee Titans in exchange for a 2022 second-round pick and a 2023 fourth-round pick, with the Falcons also receiving a 2023 sixth-round pick.
Jones is one of the best players in franchise history and remains an elite player when healthy. His departure hurts the team, especially since the Falcons had only received second-round and fourth-round picks in return for the seven-time Pro Bowler. Even though he was limited to just nine games last season due to injuries, he still had 51 catches for 771 receiving yards and three touchdowns, and the Falcons offense will miss him. There are several Falcons players who will be affected by his departure on the field, from quarterback Matt Ryan to wide receiver Calvin Ridley, who will now be the focal point of opposing defenses.
On the other hand, it’s not just the Titans’ offense who will benefit from Jones’ arrival in Tennessee, as there are also some Falcons players who could gain something from Jones’ departure. Here are three members of Atlanta’s offense who could benefit from this trade:
1. Kyle Pitts
With Jones set to play for the Titans, one of the Falcons players who could get more targets is Kyle Pitts, the fourth overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft. The tight end is coming off a strong season, finishing with 43 catches for 770 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns in eight games for the Florida Gators. the Falcons’ financial situation was also one of the reasons why they made the trade for Jones, and his departure will allow the team to finalize his contract and sign their other draft picks.
2. Russell Gage
While Ridley will likely be guarded by the opposing team’s best cornerback, fellow wide receiver Russell Gage will also be more involved in the Falcons’ offense after the Jones trade. The 25-year-old is coming off his best year, finishing with 72 catches for 786 receiving yards and four touchdowns in 2020. The Falcons got a preview of what the former sixth-round draft pick can do as he stepped up while Jones was sidelined with a hamstring injury last season. And with the LSU product entering the final year of his rookie deal, he has a chance to prove his value to the team’s offense as he takes on a bigger role next season.
3. Hayden Hurst
The Falcons will turn to Pitts as their primary tight end next season, but it doesn’t mean that Hayden Hurst will not have a chance to shine with the Falcons after Jones was dealt to the Titans. Just like Gage, the 27-year-old is coming off a career year in 2020, finishing with 56 catches for 571 receiving yards and six touchdowns. Moreover, the Falcons declined to exercise the fifth-year option on the contract of the former Baltimore Raven, which will make him a free agent after this season. A strong performance in his fourth season in the league will give Hurst a chance to get a better deal from his team.