How the Titans landed Julio Jones in blockbuster deal

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Late Sunday morning, the inevitable happened with Julio Jones, the franchise receiver for the Atlanta for the past decade. Atlanta rid itself of an onerous contract—three years and $38 million for a 32-year-old receiver who missed seven games due to injury last year—by sending Jones and a 2023 sixth-round pick to Tennessee for a second-round pick in 2022 and a fourth in 2023.

In the end, the Falcons made a deal with the only team that was really serious about obtaining Jones. The market for Jones wasn’t as hot as the Falcons thought it would be. Baltimore was interested before the draft but with Sammy Watkins arriving in free agency and Rashod Bateman and Tylan Wallace coming in rounds one and four of the draft, the Ravens dropped out. New England never had serious interest in committing $38 million to a 32-year-old receiver. Seattle was interested, but not for huge money. Tennessee was the last and best shot. But a source close to the deal told me there were three other teams involved in the last week, but none willing to give what Tennessee gave. That included taking on the entire amount Jones is owned through 2023.

That source also told me the key to getting the trade done was Tennessee’s willingness to add a second pick to the deal Sunday morning in a call between GMs Terry Fontenot of the Falcons and Jon Robinson of the Titans. Credit to Fontenot here. The rookie personnel czar, I’m told, reasoned that there was a huge difference between second-round picks. Tennessee, he thought, quite likely will have a pick in the fifties next year, and told Robinson he needed more to get the deal done. Makes sense. Tennessee’s second-round pick was 61st overall in 2020, and 53rd in 2021.

Robinson was willing to add another pick—but not without getting a lesser pick back. So in the Sunday call, after some negotiating, Robinson agreed to swap a four in ’23 for a six in ’23, and Fontenot signed off on it.

There will be much debate over the terms of the deal, and why the Falcons got primarily a late-second-round pick after getting a second-round pick for the forgettable Mohamed Sanu at the 2019 trading deadline from New England. I’ll give you 38 million reasons why the Falcons couldn’t get more. Jones is a fantastic player when healthy, but the combination of what he’s owed, plus the fact he doesn’t practice much now and missed nearly half the season last year, kept his future value down. I was told Sunday night that Atlanta owner Arthur Blank, who can be a demanding boss, did not press Fontenot for a better return than what he got.

When I spoke to Robinson on Sunday afternoon, he said judging Jones’ health “was big in the decision. Missing time last year, what were the circumstances surrounding that? And based on our evaluation of him, he’s healthy and doesn’t look like he’s lost anything to us.”

There’s also the change-of-scenery thing that should help Tennessee. Jones clearly wanted out of a rebuild in Atlanta and wanted to play for a contender. Tennessee’s defense will be a question after falling to 28th in yards allowed last year. But the offense should be uber-productive if Jones stays on the field.

“I just talked to Julio an hour ago, and he’s fired up to get here and start working with his new guys,” Robinson said. “He gives us real multiplicity on offense. We’re high on [free-agent wideout] Josh Reynolds too, and imagine Julio, A.J. Brown and Josh Reynolds in the pattern, with Derrick Henry in the backfield. You pack the box for Derrick and, I mean, someone’s gonna be open for Ryan to hit.”

I can’t think of an offense with two wideouts around 225 pounds or so (Jones and Browns) and a 247-pound back with back-to-back rushing titles. Robinson’s right. Playing the Titans will be a pick-your-poison deal.

“We believe in playing a physical game,” Robinson said, “with effort and finish, using our size. We think, sooner, or later, those big bodies will take a toll on you.”

We’ll know all about it in the first half of the new 17-game season. Look at this four-game stretch for the Titans in weeks six through nine: Buffalo at home on a Monday night, Kansas City at home, at Indianapolis, at the Rams. Easily could be four of the top 10 teams in football this year, and the Titans might need to score very big to go even 2-2 in those games. You get the feeling they’ll be able to, if Jones stays active. That’s the significant if facing the Titans.

Read more from Peter King’s Football Morning in America column here.

Chris Simms’ 2023 NFL Draft WR Rankings: Zay Flowers, Jaxon Smith-Njigba top list


The 2023 NFL Draft is just around the corner, and across all positions, fans are eagerly tracking the names to know to see what prospects can bolster their team in the upcoming season. A top-quality pass-catcher is on the wish list for more than a few franchises, and ahead of the draft on April 27th, Chris Simms broke down his picks for the top five wide receivers in this year’s draft class, starting with Boston College’s Zay Flowers, who’s been rumored to be of interest for both the Saints and the Patriots. Stay tuned to the Chris Simms Unbuttoned podcast for the next month as Simms breaks down his rankings for every position group, and read on for the rest of his wide receiver rankings.

RELATED: Chris Simms’ 2023 NFL Draft QB Rankings: C.J. Stroud leads the way, and a tie at No. 5

Chris Simms’ 2023 NFL Draft Wide Receiver Rankings

Tier One

1. Zay Flowers, Boston College

2. Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State

Tier Two

3. Quentin Johnston, TCU

4. Michael Wilson, Stanford

Tier Three

5. Jalin Hyatt, Tennessee

Chris Simms Top 5 2023 NFL Draft Wide Receivers

RELATED: When is the 2023 NFL Draft? Date, start time, location, Round 1 order

Simms Breaks Down 2023 Draft WR Rankings

The following are highlights from Simms’ WR draft rankings. For Simms’ in-depth analysis, read below for a breakdown on each prospect and be sure to subscribe to Chris Simms Unbuttoned for an unfiltered look at the NFL, featuring player access, unabashed opinion, X&O film breakdown, and stories from a life in and around football.

No. 1 Zay Flowers (Boston College)

What Simms Said: “The position versatility – he can play inside or outside. Some of the best releases in the draft are from Zay Flowers. He is pedal to the metal every play, every cut, everything he does. The build, the style of running…I think he looks like Antonio Brown. He is an unbelievable route runner, along with the explosive athlete. You’re really getting a three-in-one here with speed burner on the outside, speed burner on the inside, and slot receiver inside. I wrote Jaylen Waddle, that’s a guy he reminds me of…(He) plays bigger than his measurables say. To me, he’s a top-20 pick.”

No. 2 Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State

What Simms Said: “The speed is not blazing…but what’s off the charts good is the guy’s quickness and route running. His ability to come off the ball and be going 70% and almost jump in the air at the six-yard mark…it’s like Allen Iverson with an unbelievable crossover dribble. He’s got this unbelievable ability to change direction and then accelerate in a hurry. His ability after the catch…the first guy never tackles him…He reminds me of Jarvis Landry, to a greater version. This guy is about as high level of a route runner as you’re going to see in college.”

No. 3 Quentin Johnson, TCU

What Simms Said: “Tee Higgins-ish with more explosive ability than Higgins had coming out. He can catch the six-yard shallow cross and run 80 yards for a touchdown. His ability to jump – it’s a 40.5 inch vertical – plus he’s 6’3” and his arms look like they’re ridiculously long. He’s Drake London-ish from last year, except he doesn’t have the route running but has more of the straight speed…He’s one of the most physically impressive wide receivers in recent memory. You don’t see a lot of the route variety…but he shows the ability to change direction with the ball in his hands. He has better feet, quickness, and suddenness than most people with his size.”

No. 4 Michael Wilson, Stanford

What Simms Said: “This is where we’re going to go a little unconventional…But if you watch the film, you go, ‘There’s no doubt this is one of the best three or four receivers in this draft.’ There’s nothing he doesn’t do that’s top-notch…He ran a 4.58 at the Combine in the 40, (but) he plays way faster than that…The physical specimen is real, let alone the refined things you like to see in a receiver are real too. He can be another guy who could be inside or outside because he’s got the pure size and strength and speed to beat you outside but has the route running and it looks like the smarts to be that slot guy that catches your eye as well.”

No. 5 Jalin Hyatt, Tennessee 

What Simms Said: “If you like speed, then you like Jaylin Hyatt…This is a track start, straight-liner, DeSean Jackson-, Will Fuller-ish type of receiver. So, there’s going to be things about him that you love, there’s going to be some things about him that I’m not crazy about. He’s not a great route runner…I truly question whether he can do it, unlike the other guys where I try to piece things together. You can watch a bunch of catches and he never makes anybody miss, that’s not his game…If there’s a seam straight away, watch out…If he gets a free release or gets off the line of scrimmage the right way and you have a safety that doesn’t get back instantly, see ya. It’s going to be a 60-yard post for a touchdown. That’s where he’s special.”

For more preview content of the 2023 NFL Draft, stay tuned to Chris Simms UnbuttonedProFootballTalk and NBC Sports EDGE for all the latest updates, player analysis and mock drafts.

Chris Simms’ 2023 NFL Draft Position Rankings: The top QBs, WRs, RBs, and more ahead of draft weekend


The 2023 NFL Draft takes place on Thursday, April 27 through Saturday, April 29 in Kansas City, Missouri. Click here for the full first-round draft order to find out when your team is picking.

Ahead of this year’s draft, Chris Simms has already started analyzing the top prospects by position on the Chris Simms Unbuttoned podcast. So far, Simms has revealed his highly anticipated list of the top 5 quarterback prospects and wide receivers. See below to find out who made the top 5 names for each position and be sure to check back for updates!

Be sure to subscribe to Chris Simms Unbuttoned for more on the 2023 NFL Draft as well as an unfiltered look at the NFL, featuring player access, unabashed opinion, X&O film breakdown, and stories from a life in and around football.

RELATED: When is the 2023 NFL Draft? Date, start time, location, Round 1 order

Chris Simms’ 2023 NFL Draft Position Rankings:

Chris Simms’ 2023 NFL Draft QB Rankings:

  1. C.J. Stroud, Ohio State
  2. Bryce Young, Alabama
  3. Hendon Hooker, Tennessee
  4. Anthony Richardson, Florida
  5. Dorian Thompson-Robinson, UCLA and Will Levis, Kentucky

Chris Simms’ 2023 NFL Draft WR Rankings:

  1. Zay Flowers, Boston College
  2. Jaxon Smith-Njibga, Ohio State
  3. Quentin Jonston, TCU
  4. Michael Wilson, Stanford
  5. Jalin Hyatt, Tennessee

How can I watch the 2023 NFL Draft live?

ESPN, ABC, and NFL Network will air all seven rounds of the 2023 NFL Draft.

What time does the NFL Draft start?

The first round of the 2023 NFL Draft will get underway on Thursday at 8 p.m. ET. Rounds two and three will commence Friday at 7 p.m. ET, with Saturday’s final rounds at 12 p.m.

Follow along with ProFootballTalk for the latest news, storylines, and updates surrounding the 2023 NFL Season and be sure to subscribe to NFLonNBC on YouTube!