Monday, June 14, 2021

Is Julio Jones a distraction the Cardinals don’t need

While DeAndre Hopkins continues his one man recruitment drive for Julio Jones the question needs to be asked as to whether he really makes Arizona more of a contender this year, or over the remainder of his contract. At his prime every team in the NFL would’ve backed a money truck up to Julio’s door, but is he the right fit, right now, for the Cardinals.

When healthy Jones still ranks up their with the elite in the NFL with PFF grading him as the 13th best WR in 2020, and he ranked 7th in yards per route run. But sports injury predictor gives him an 83% chance of being injured in 2021, while predicted he will miss 2.9 games.

JULIO JONES WILL GET PAID

If Julio Jones gets traded he will carry a cap hit to the Cardinals of $18-million which would make him the teams third highest paid player. Cap hits of $14.2-million in 2022 and 2023 would follow with the 2022 salary fully guaranteed. It’s a chunk of money for a player who has missed time in seven of his ten seasons in the NFL, and missed seven games in 2020.

With 13.5-million in cap space (per overthecap.com) there would need to be some rejiggering, but the numbers can be massaged into a workable shape.

While his talent is undeniable, averaging over 14 yards per reception in every season bar one, and having at least one reception over 40 yards in every season, his age and injury history make this kind of investment a gamble.

At a time when Kyler Murray is entering a pivotal season for him personally, and for the team, adding another high-octane weapon is definitely worth considering. But with Julio Jones in a win-now window it may bring more pressure than it brings upside.

Already this off-season the Cardinals have added AJ Green, and JJ Watt to a relatively inexperienced roster. The addition of Julio would make sense when taken in that light, but it would also limit the playing time of younger players such as Christian Kirk, KeeSean Johnson, Andy Isabella, and rookie Rondale Moore.

WHAT WOULD IT LOOK LIKE ON THE FIELD?

With all three of Hopkins(78.7), Green(82.1), and Jones(80.9) playing the majority of their snaps outside, one either has to move to the slot, or potentially only two start. It would make sense for Hopkins to start, leaving Jones and Green to split time on the bench, or in the slot.

But what does this mean for Moore, and Kirk in particular? Sitting for a year would be fine for Moore, but it wouldn’t be ideal for Kirk. And this is all assuming, fairly, that Larry Fitzgerald will retire.

For his part, Julio Jones put up some incredible performances when he was on the field in 2020. With an average depth of target of 12.7 dead on his career average, he showed little sign of slowing down with even his 4.5 yac/rec close to his career average of 5.1.

With only three-years max left in the NFL, Julio Jones would be a great receiver to have, if he sees the field, in 2021, but it may set back the franchise in terms of development of the long term potential of the younger receivers currently on the roster.

The decision will come down to a fine calculus of money, expected performance gained, and development of players on the roster. It may be that the staff has already determined some of the players, Andy Isabella prime among them, don’t have the requisite ceiling to take this team forward.

But make no mistake, this is a decision could will help define expectations for the Cardinals for the next couple of seasons. If it’s me making the decision, while JJ Watt shows an element of win now in the organisation I would steer clear of adding Julio Jones at this point in his career.

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