Draft Week has finally arrived!
On Thursday, we’ll finally get an answer as to who the Cincinnati Bengals will select with the No. 5 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
For much of the offseason, the Penei Sewell vs. Ja’Marr Chase debate has raged on, as it appeared there was a good chance both players would be there when Cincinnati goes on the clock with Chase being favored to be the pick.
However, the Bengals’ decision may effectively be made for them if one of those two players is drafted within the first four picks.
It’s pretty much a lock that the first three picks will be quarterbacks, while the Atlanta Falcons are a bit of a wild card at No. 4. The assumption has been they’ll either take Kyle Pitts, a quarterback, or trade down with a team looking to move up for a quarterback.
Could the Falcons surprise everyone and actually take Chase at No. 5?
Already having a wide receiver group that features Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley, taking Chase seems unlikely with how the roster currently stands.
However, MMQB columnist Albert Breer reports that the Falcons are listening to trade offers for Jones.
Falcons are listening to offers on the five-time All-Pro as part of a larger effort to clean up the salary cap—as it stands right now, the Falcons wouldn’t even be able to sign their draft class. Basically, the new brass told other teams they’d listen to offers on any of the more expensive players on the roster. They got some interest in linebacker Deion Jones, then decided to restructure his contract and keep him. They’ve restructured Matt Ryan and left tackle Jake Matthews as well. Calls have come in on Jones too, but his deal hasn’t been reworked yet. What would it take to get Jones out of Atlanta? My guess is a first-round pick, or some equivalent. He’s 32, but he’s still shown he can play when healthy, and the three years left on his deal are reasonable ($15.3 million this year, $11.513 million in 2022 and $11.513 million in 2023).
NBC Sports’ Peter King also floated the idea of a Jones trade.
I can’t predict any bombshells. But a few things would not surprise me. Most notably, the Falcons putting the framework of a trade together for star wideout Julio Jones, and making the trade effective June 2. That way, Atlanta could split Jones’ cap charge between 2021 and 2022 instead of getting bashed with it all this year. So if such a trade happens, I expect it could involve a future pick or picks, nothing this year. (A future second-round pick as compensation seems fair to me.)
At 32 years old, Jones is certainly at the age where, if nothing else, it would be ideal to find his replacement, and Chase certainly has the potential to be a franchise receiver. If nothing else, this report makes it sound like Atlanta is planning to move on from Jones in the coming years, so having a guy like Chase waiting in the wings would ensure there’s not a major dropoff, if any at all.
Now, another way you could look at this is the Falcons are clearly trying to save cap space, and trading out of the top 10 would obviously lower the cap hit their first-round pick will have.
Whatever the case may be, it’s clear that Ja’Marr Chase is no lock to be available when the Bengals are on the clock.