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When Trevor Lawrence stepped off the plane and onto his new home soil of Jacksonville, Florida, this past Friday, his first instinct wasn’t to smile or give a thumbs up. It wasn’t to shout “Duuuval!” and yank a Jacksonville Jaguars cap atop his head.

Instead, as the quarterback reached out with his right hand to accept the greetings of his new team, he placed his left hand atop his head, where his fingers caught a handful of glorious caramel blond hair before those locks could cascade down to cover his chiseled face and block it from the lenses of the waiting cameras. Then he strode toward those cameras with a handclap, a smile and a hair flip worthy of a gasp from Tyra Banks on the runways of “America’s Next Top Model.”

Yes, Jags fans, Trevor Lawrence has finally arrived, with his No. 1 arm, No. 1 throwing ability and, more importantly, his No. 1 head of hair. They are football follicles of such fortitude, they have made others famous by association, “others” ranging from social media sensations to nicknames, and lookalikes to faux tweets from the hair itself. Barbershops in his hometown have offered “The Trevor.” His mop has been chronicled by TMZ. And, after Lawrence dismantled Alabama in the 2019 College Football Playoff National Championship game, GQ wrote, “He is Fabio if Fabio could drop a 60-yard dime against college football’s most perennially feared defense.”

When he once casually revealed he uses Pantene Pro-V to porter his plumage, drug stores in Upstate South Carolina saw a run on the shampoo from high school boys seeking to recreate Lawrence’s secret serum. Troy Polamalu, the pioneer of NFL hair wash endorsements, has offered up the advice of tucking in the hair, lest Lawrence get yanked down by it as Polamalu famously was following an interception against the Chiefs in 2006.

When filament-filled photos taken throughout Lawrence’s spring were sent by ESPN.com to multiple high-profile hairstylists for analysis — from his pro workouts, the Masters, his wedding, the cover of Sports Illustrated — the responses ranged from shock to jealousy.

It is the mane of a man who means business.

“It is definitely a new spin on helmet hair,” said celebrity hair and makeup artist Bryce Carey, who has worked with opulent head tops ranging from Rosario Dawson and Laura Rutledge to Ryan Lochte and Jesse Palmer. “It is as equally impressive in a headband as it is in a black-tie blowout. It is obviously well maintained, conditioned and groomed to perfection. It totally gives me fourth Hanson brother vibes.” And Carey means that as a compliment.

For three years, Clemson students have worn blond wigs with white headbands to games at Death Valley, to parties at the Esso Club and along every fashion mag/Insta post pose-worthy point in between. (If you want one of your own, you can order it via the internet from San Diego-based Watt’s Wigs. For $19.99, the “Star Athlete Headband Wig” comes adorned with a “#16” headband in either Clemson orange or Jaguars’ teal.) When the topic of his grand strands is inevitably raised at news conferences held from the CFP to the 904, his hair hastily hijacks the proceedings, as it did continually last week during his pre- and post-NFL Draft appearances.

“I guess I shouldn’t be surprised at this point when I get questions about my hair, but I am,” the 21-year-old said last week during the buildup to his impending selection atop the draft. “I guess I thought maybe people would be used to it. I mean, I’ve had it for a while now.”

How long has his ‘do been this long? The literal roots of it go back to his freshman year at Cartersville (Georgia) High. Believe it or not, Lawrence’s first days as a Purple Hurricane were spent wearing a buzz cut. He was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, and then moved to Cartersville, located about 45 minutes northwest of Atlanta. Neither location will ever be confused with Haight-Ashbury or the Sunset Strip, so short is how he had worn his hair his entire young life, sitting side-by-side with childhood buddy Joshua Mayo as his mom, Mrs. Rose Mayo, got out the clippers and sheared them like sheep.

But during his first days of high school, Lawrence and three teammates dared one another to not cut their coiffures for as long they could stomach it. The goal was to see both who could hold out the longest and if any of them could actually pull off the look. The answer to both challenges was Trevor Lawrence, though the early returns were not promising.

“It got a little rough-looking there in the middle,” recalled dad Jeremy Lawrence, a steel plant safety and environmental manager who has worn a buzz cut his entire life. “But he’s young and it grows fast.”

It grew a little too fast for the coaching staff at Cartersville, an old-school bunch who prefer their players’ lettuce be high and tight instead of long and lustered. But young Trevor had already taken over as starting QB as a freshman, throwing for 3,053 yards and 26 touchdowns, leading the Canes to the Georgia state semifinals. The coaches, looking around the “Friday Night Lights” town of 22,000 and seeing kids and adults alike wearing No. 16 jerseys and a smattering of blond wigs, decided that allowing Lawrence to keep his hair was probably the best way for them to keep their jobs.

Another gig positively affected by T-Law has been that of Cartersville hairstylist Scott Holder, who owns and operates the Hair Techniques salon with wife Holly. You know the place, down there off South Dixie Avenue, between Picketts Guitar Shop and Wilson Pools Depot. The Holders are longtime family friends of the Lawrences, so when Trevor decided he wanted to go as long off his neck as he did down the field, his mother, Amanda, called Holder, and he has been the caretaker of football’s most famous fibers since 2015. Throughout his college career, including last week’s draft, whenever Lawrence has felt the need to shape his strands, he has made the two-and-a-half-hour drive home for Holder’s handiwork, a quickly but carefully layered effort that takes about 20 minutes.

By the way, Hair Techniques is not the salon that offered up “The Trevor” — it was a rival shop elsewhere in town, but the good people of Cartersville didn’t bite. They had long seen the Holders sitting alongside the Lawrences at Hurricanes home games and then every Clemson postseason game, so they knew a cosmetology counterfeiter when they saw one.

Speaking of fur fakers, no one has ever had a problem with a pair of digital Trevor tributes that originated just down the road from Cartersville. From an undisclosed location described only as “near where he grew up,” a fan who prefers to remain anonymous runs the @TLawHair account and posts every latest great photo of Lawrence’s ‘do with the hashtag #GoWithTheFlow. The account’s big break came when Clemson retweeted it on the video board at Death Valley. Lawrence himself has responded multiple times with emojis. “It’s opened my eyes to how many guys complain on social media about his hair, and several ladies want to know the secrets to maintain the golden flow,” the Twitter user wrote to ESPN.com on NFL draft night. “We’ll see if Trevor lands a Pantene gig to go along with his Adidas, Gatorade and other endorsements!”

Meanwhile, in Alpharetta, located on the road between Cartersville and Clemson, high school student Bella Martina became a TikTok sensation two years ago, when classmates told her she looked like Lawrence. Her brother posted shots of Martina posing like famous photos of Lawrence. As of last week, the video had 2.4 million views, and its sequels, including a side-by-side of Lawrence’s reaction to her look and images of a trip to Clemson where she met the QB and head coach Dabo Swinney, have totaled more than 36 million views and counting. Martina became such a phenomenon on the Clemson campus, she was recruited by candidates for student body president and vice president to record campaign videos on their behalf. They won. Following the draft, Bleacher Report flew her to Jacksonville in Jags gear to see if the locals might mistake her for their new hero. They totally did.

Only days away from high school graduation, Martina’s latest viral video shows her posing in her customary No. 16 Clemson jersey and headband, with the promise of announcing where she will attend college this fall. She raises her arms in triumph and mimics a QB who was a high-round NFL draft pick last week … but it’s Alabama’s Mac Jones! Yes, after two years of wearing nothing but orange, Martina is rolling with the Tide down to Tuscaloosa!

“Clemson fans have been pretty lighthearted, which I appreciate. They know I am capable of having my own life outside of Trevor Lawrence, and we’re mostly making jokes about us being rivals,” said the Artist Formerly Known as Trevor Lawrence Girl. Speaking of, is she going to have to get a new nickname? Because, like her doppelganger, she certainly isn’t getting her hair chopped off. “Maybe Trevor will get a new nickname in the NFL that will trickle down to me.”

Lawrence’s hair has spawned nearly too many nicknames to count, but we will anyway. GQ certainly wasn’t the first to look at his wondrous wool and think of Fabio, the waterfall whiskered king of romance cover novels and reality television. But how does Fabio feel about the comparison? Reached by email, he responded saying he loves it, adding: “I wish Trevor well. I hope he has a good conditioner and good O-line, but I’m still a Seahawks fan. Go Hawks!”

Others have drawn a comparison between the god of Touchdowns and the god of Thunder, and it is a very literal interpretation of a drawn comparison. We reached out to Marvel Studios for a statement from Thor himself, but we were informed he is currently off planet with the Guardians of the Galaxy filming “Thor: Love and Thunder” (in theaters February 2022!).

But on the same day of the NFL Draft, Marvel Comics released a series of superhero-inspired cover images depicting some of the most likely big first-round picks. While there was much debate and discussion about what to do with the likes of Najee Harris and Zach Wilson, as soon as the artists saw a photo of Lawrence, there was no conversation needed. “Come on, this was too easy, right?” Marvel expert and podcaster Angelique Roche exclaimed when talking about Lawrence’s treatment as the legendary Thor #177 cover art by Jack Kirby. “Just look at his hair!”

Then, there is the perm treatment of Lawrence nicknames, tagged on Lawrence in high school and amplified the instant his spun gold could be seen bouncing from beneath his helmet as he touched Howard’s Rock and ran down The Hill.

“Yeah, I’ve heard ‘Sunshine’ pretty much my whole life,” Lawrence explained last fall, referring to the moniker bestowed upon Ronnie Bass, the Californian-turned-Virginian QB in “Remember The Titans,” a film that hit theaters the week before Lawrence’s first birthday. Bass, played by Kip Pardue, shows up for his first practice sporting a flowy long blond head of hair, drawing the ire of the T.C. Lawrence coaching staff, not unlike the reaction of Lawrence’s coaches in Cartersville, though head coach Herman Boone makes Sunshine get out the scissors before he’s allowed to suit up as a Titan.

“Yeah, that’s not how that went down,” the real Ron Bass clarifies today. First, “Sunshine” didn’t stem from his hair, but rather his sunburned skin. As a protest of having to move away from California, he stayed on the beach for a solid month in the, you know, sunshine. Second, as the son of an Air Force officer, Bass had a buzz cut, but when he joined the Titans, they were all sporting shaggy ‘dos. “Remember now, this was Washington, D.C. in 1971. Long hair was in, so I had to grow mine out to fit in with those guys.”

Bass went on to play college football at South Carolina, where he kept his high school nickname secret. It didn’t resurface until the movie was released. So, does it bother him there is now a second Sunshine, and he played at archrival Clemson?!

“Nah, man, he’s so good, I can’t be mad about that,” says Bass, 65, now a TV sales director in North Myrtle Beach. “I coached my son in football for years, and every team he ever played against, from youth league through high school, if they had a kid with long blond hair he was called ‘Sunshine.’ There will be more. Trevor just happens to be the best one.”

If we start reading between the hairlines here, have we uncovered the real source of Trevor Lawrence’s power? Not the weight room or the passing drills or even all of those Chick-fil-A sandwiches he eats after wins. Think about it. It was only after the original Sunshine grew his hair out like his teammates that the Titans became so remembered. Thor and his Avengers teammates couldn’t take down Thanos until after he had regrown his buzz cut back to shoulder length. And since Lawrence entered into his hair club pact with his high school teammates, he has posted a combined high school/college record of 86-6 with zero regular-season losses.

Wait, has this story turned into a Dan Brown novel? Have we followed those tiger paws painted on the streets of Clemson until we’ve stumbled out of the playbook and into the Good Book? Strength derived from hair length?

“The strength of Samson was in the vow, not the hair, but still, nothing good happened after Samson got the trim,” Commander Nathan Solomon, longtime U.S. Navy Chaplain and biblical scholar, explained. Solomon is referring to the Nazarite Vow, a series of devotional actions that includes a refusal to cut one’s hair. When Samson, a.k.a. The World’s Strongest Man (prior to that Magnus Samuelsson guy on ESPN2), had his hackles hacked off in his sleep, he became mortal. “Yeah,” the preacher says of anyone who might try to talk T-Law into a makeover of his mane. “Let it be a sign unto them. Leave it alone.”

It does feel a bit prophetic that Lawrence is moving not to New York or Chicago or some other place where perhaps a head of hair such as his would be met with scoffs and scrutiny. But he is in Jacksonville, located just a Hail Mary toss below the Georgia state line. It is, after all, the hometown of Lynyrd Skynyrd, and what was it they wrote in “Gimme Three Steps?”

Hey there fellow with the hair colored yellow, whatcha tryin’ to prove?

“Oh, he won’t get any resistance down here for that haircut, not in Jacksonville,” says Brent Martineau, who covers the Jags for, among other outlets, ESPN 690 AM. “This was the home of [Gardner] Minshew Mania, with the mustache and hair. And if you’ve ever been in this town, we have no lack of long hair, especially when the guy with the long hair is the No. 1 pick in the draft.”



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Ready or not: Bears’ next QB dilemma is when to play Justin Fields – Chicago Bears Blog

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LAKE FOREST, Ill. — It’s not an overstatement to call quarterback Justin Fields’ arrival in Chicago the city’s most celebrated sports moment since the Cubs won the World Series in 2016.

The Bears — almost universally panned for their spotty Day 1 draft record over the past decade — administered a shot of adrenaline to the fan base when they pulled off a draft-night blockbuster trade with the New York Giants in order to move up nine spots and select Fields 11th overall.

Fields is no Mitchell Trubisky, who sat on the bench at North Carolina for years until a very good junior season (the 8-5 Tar Heels lost the Sun Bowl to Stanford in Trubisky’s final collegiate game) convinced the Bears to take him with the second pick in 2017.

Rather, Fields played at Ohio State — one of the nation’s preeminent college football powerhouses.

In two seasons as the Buckeyes’ starting quarterback, Fields passed for 63 touchdowns with nine interceptions as Ohio State went 20-2, won two Big Ten Championships and made two College Football Playoff appearances. Fields, a two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, threw for 385 yards and six touchdowns in a brilliant semifinal performance against Clemson.

The resume checked every box, at least for the Bears.

“It’s the arm talent, it’s the accuracy, it’s the athleticism,” Bears general manager Ryan Pace said of Fields. “When you see a guy with that kind of arm talent, with that kind of quarterback makeup that he has, with that kind of work ethic that he has, that’s played in really big games and really big moments and performed in big moments, that’s extremely tough.

“You know, I was at the Michigan game a couple years ago when he came back in from a knee, and we know about the ribs and the hip, and this guy’s toughness on a scale of 1-10 is an 11. And you just love that about him. Oh, and then, by the way, he runs a 4.44. You throw all that in together and it just feels good.”

The wisdom behind the Fields pick is undeniable — the Bears have been without a true franchise quarterback for 70-plus years — but what happens next is up for debate.

Fields is Chicago’s quarterback of the future. No controversy there. The same held true for Trubisky when the Bears drafted him four years ago.

The sticky part is when to play a quarterback, if at all, during their rookie season.

Veteran quarterback Andy Dalton‘s time in Chicago is likely to be brief — he signed for one-year, $10 million — but Dalton can still provide the Bears with a valuable service.

The Bears and coach Matt Nagy want to follow the blueprint from Kansas City, where former league MVP and Super Bowl champion Patrick Mahomes sat almost his entire first season behind veteran Alex Smith. The belief is Dalton can be Smith, but with red hair.

“You look at a guy like Andy Dalton and his experience and the time he’s seen, that part is extremely similar to Alex at the same point in their career, where Andy has seen every defense made to man, he’s watched a lot of tape,” said Nagy, who served as Andy Reid’s offensive coordinator in Mahomes’ rookie season. “He’s seen a lot of different schemes that people throw at him. He’s been in playoff games. He’s done a lot of things the right way. So how great is that for a young rookie to come on in and learn from a guy like him and Nick Foles.

“And so the timing element of Justin, you know, we will know and there’s some observations from all of us as coaches every single day, and just like we would tell any quarterback, when you come in here, you do everything you can to be the best quarterback that you could be, whether it’s in the meeting room or whether it’s in practice, and everything else will take care of itself. … I promise you every single person will know including Justin when it’s the right time and that’s naturally how it happens.”

You understand the Bears cautious tone when it pertains to Fields’ readiness.

“Andy is our starter, and we’re going to have a really good plan in place to develop Justin and do what’s best for our organization and win games,” Pace said.

Pace and the Bears were badly burned in Trubisky’s first year by Mike Glennon, the veteran quarterback the team added (and guaranteed $18.5 million) before the draft to be their 2017 starter. Even after taking Trubisky as high as they did, the Bears’ plan was for Glennon to be the starting quarterback for most of, if not all of, Trubisky’s rookie year. The plan changed when Glennon bombed and Chicago installed Trubisky in Week 5.

The rest is history.

Perhaps Trubisky’s fate would have been the same even had he sat on the bench his entire rookie year. Nevertheless, there is no denying Trubisky was not ready when the Bears turned to him, and some of those early career limitations never improved over time.

Dalton is a much better quarterback than Glennon.

To compare Dalton to Alex Smith circa 2017, though, is a stretch. That’s the conundrum.

People forget the great run Smith enjoyed in Kansas City. Smith passed for 4,042 yards, 26 touchdowns, five interceptions and had a quarterback rating of 104.7 in his final season with the Chiefs. No wonder Kansas City felt good about keeping Mahomes in a backup role until the end of the season.

Before the draft, Bears fans complained about the Dalton signing, but since the Fields pick, the Dalton move has largely been forgotten.

It should not be.

The key to the Bears’ future, ironically enough, is in Dalton’s hands. The longer he keeps Fields on the sideline, the better off the Bears may be.

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Football from Tom Brady’s first NFL touchdown pass going up for auction

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The football that Tom Brady threw to complete his first touchdown pass in the NFL is going up for auction with Lelands on Sunday.

It’s a unique piece of sports history that has been with the seller, who wishes to remain anonymous, since the game on Oct. 14, 2001, when the New England Patriots played the San Diego Chargers.

The seller grew up in Rhode Island and has gone to Patriots games since the late 1970s with his family. He and three of his high school friends first bought season tickets in 1992 as college students and have kept the tickets to this day.

He’s a loyal fan of the Patriots and jokes that his wife almost divorced him 100 times because of how devoted he was to the Sunday games and tailgates with friends.

In the beginning, the tailgates were what the group of friends looked forward to as the Patriots went 2-14 in 1992 and 5-11 in 1993. The team had improved by the 2001 season, but the 25 to 30 friends still enjoyed the tailgate.

On that fall day in October, the seller made his way to Lot 11 right when the parking lot opened in the morning. Eventually, they dispersed to their respective seats and the seller made his way down near the field in the south end zone.

“Looking from the 50-yard line to the south end zone, the left field goal post, I sat to the left of that,” the seller said. “[Place-kicker] Scott Sisson, we called him Missin’ Sisson. I caught a lot of balls in that stadium because he would miss field goals.”

The game was only the third one Brady started after Drew Bledsoe was injured in the second game of the season against the New York Jets, so most Patriots fans didn’t have high expectations for Brady. From the moment Bledsoe was injured, however, the seller tried to convince his friends Brady was going to be the guy going forward, although he met with much resistance from his audience.

Brady had gone two games without throwing a touchdown as the starter, and there was now 4:01 left in the second quarter with New England and San Diego tied at 3 apiece.

The Patriots were driving at the San Diego 21-yard line when Brady took the snap, looked for Terry Glenn the whole play and threw a dart to him in the front of the end zone. Glenn threw his arms in the air and celebrated with his teammates. He then made his way near the back of the end zone and threw the ball into the crowd.

“It was a melee. I stood up on my seat, I pushed my buddy to my left,” the seller said. “The other two guys, I handed them my beer in a gentle way. I jumped up, tussled with a group of other fans around me and I came down with the ball.”

At the time, it was just another football. He was excited he had caught the ball and proud to see that, at age 29, he still had hands from his high school football days.

It wasn’t until he went to the postgame tailgate, when he opened his trunk to show the football off to his friends, that one of them reminded him it was Brady’s first touchdown.

He kept the ball in a safe place in his house and even played a very careful game of catch with the football in the backyard. It wasn’t until the end of the 2003 season, when New England beat the Carolina Panthers in the Super Bowl, that the seller knew he had something special.

Immediately after that game, he put the ball in a safety deposit box at his local bank. There it stayed, rarely brought out of its safekeeping. The ball became something of a superstition for the seller and his friends, as he would take it out the Saturday before each Super Bowl the Patriots appeared in, take a picture of it and send it to his friends.

The Patriots have lost the Super Bowl only once when the seller took a picture of the ball, and they were 0-2 in the two games when he didn’t.

“I was out of town for the Philly game [in 2017], and I just missed the bank closing for the Giants game [in 2007],” the seller said. “I had kids’ sports and just couldn’t get there before the bank closed. That’s what caused the David Tyree helmet catch, because I couldn’t take a picture of the ball.”

As time passed, and with neither of the seller’s kids expressing interest in keeping the ball in the family, they decided it was time to move on and allow someone else to enjoy this piece of sports history.

Lelands has photo-verified the football based on markings and writing on the football that was specific to the Patriots at the time. As Glenn celebrated in the end zone, a photographer captured the moment with Glenn holding the football with the laces out and the markings clearly shown. There are four main points that were identified on the ball. The Patriots wrote “PATS” in marker on one side of the ball near the laces, two dots on the end of the laces, the letters “L” and “N” on one side and a two-digit number on the other side identifying which game ball it was for that day.

“You can see the exact marks where the writing on the ball in the photo matches the ball that we are about to offer,” Lelands director of acquisitions Jordan Gilroy said. “It’s incredible that there was a photographer that close to him at that moment in time. Everything in that scenario was perfect, and we definitely did our due diligence to make sure it is the one.”

Lelands previously sold the infamous football from the Patriots’ AFC Championship Game defeat of the Colts in 2014, after which New England was accused of deflating footballs to gain an advantage. That ball sold in July 2015 for $43,740.

Gilroy and the seller don’t have a realistic gauge for the amount this ball could bring in, but he says it isn’t in the same conversation as the Deflategate ball.

The timing is right to get top dollar for this type of item as the sports card and memorabilia hobby has exploded in the past year. Lelands sold an autographed Tom Brady Panini Playoff Contenders Championship Ticket rookie card for $2.25 million in April, which broke the record for the highest-selling football card.

That card was graded as an 8.5, and the auction house now has the same card graded as a 9 up for auction on Sunday as well. There are only seven of these cards graded as a 9, so the expectation is that this card will eclipse the $2.25 million price tag from April.

As rare as that card is, this football is a true one of one and can’t be replicated or re-created.

“For Tom Brady’s football to be available and owned by an average fan is incredible,” Gilroy said. “It’s a piece of football history, and I think 10, 20, 30 years from now and Brady’s legacy is remembered even more, like Michael Jordan is now, it’s just going to increase in value. The fact that this ball is probably going into a private collection and might not see the light of day again, it might be the last time it ever sells.”

The seller hasn’t thought much about what would happen if Brady called him to try to put the ball into his personal collection, and he doesn’t have an expectation for what the ball could bring at auction when it ends on June 4.

Because he is a loyal Patriots fan and the ball means so much to him, the seller wishes only that it will go to the right fan.

“Somebody that has a place that can put it on their mantel, tell the story of how they got the ball,” the seller said. “My entire goal is to get it in the right fan’s hands that will enjoy telling their family and friends that they have the ball. It’s a piece of history you never see, but some of these great pieces of history need to be in the fans’ hands, so I want to get it to the right person that will enjoy it the way I have.”

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Where Julio Jones could land if the Falcons trade him – Atlanta Falcons Blog

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It’s a move no one would really want to make. Parting with franchise stars, players who could end up in the Hall of Fame, is never an easy thing. Teams do it every year, the multibillion-dollar business side of a game.

But every career sees changes, and in the National Football League moving on is a harsh part of life. Which is where the Falcons might sit at the moment with star receiver Julio Jones.

The draft over, the Falcons now must turn their attention to the rest of their roster — and what it might look like in the fall. The draft class still needs to be signed. Cap space remains incredibly tight, which is how Atlanta ended up in a conversation about possibly trading Jones.

“The answer to that is just pointing to the cap and pointing to the fact that we’ll answer calls on any players,” new Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot said last month. “When teams ask about players, we have to answer those calls and we have to listen because we do have to, we knew when we stepped into this we were going to have to make some tough decisions because it is just the reality of it.

“That’s where we are with the salary cap, so we have to make some difficult decisions.”

Trading Jones isn’t a performance thing. It’s simply the reality of a shrunken salary cap due to COVID-19 and a cap-flow problem the previous regime left Atlanta in.

And this isn’t to say the Falcons are definitely trading Jones after June 1. If the return value isn’t there, whether that’s draft picks, good players on cheap contracts or a combination of both, it would be surprising to see Atlanta trade him.

With that in mind, here’s a few ways to look at the Falcons’ situation.

Keeping Jones

If Atlanta keeps Jones – which from an on-field perspective is logical – the Falcons have to find a way to free up money. That could come from releasing other players, and to speculate on names would not be prudent because there’s too many potential scenarios Fontenot could try.

There’s also the possibility of trading other players who wouldn’t get the return Jones would either in capital or cap relief.

The other option would be to restructure Jones, much like the team did with Matt Ryan, Jake Matthews and Deion Jones. There aren’t many players they could ask for pay cuts from, like the team did with Dante Fowler Jr., but that’s another option.

But restructuring Jones -– or, perhaps Grady Jarrett –- could provide the short-term relief it needs while continuing to create potential cap problems in the future. Say the Falcons restructured $7.5 million of Jones’ contract. It would give Atlanta almost $6 million in cap room for this year, according to Over The Cap, but it would give Jones a cap hit of almost $22 million in 2022 and 2023. Which is, again, pushing the potential problem down the road. It’s an option, but maybe not the best long-term one.

Fontenot also acknowledged he doesn’t want to keep restructuring deals because it doesn’t help long-term.

“This is not going to be an overnight fix with the cap. It’s going to take time,” Fontenot said. “But we want to have a healthy cap at some point so we can’t just restructure every contract because it’s just hurting us in future years.”

Jones and Jarrett, though, are the only two players on the roster where a restructure would offer the kind of 2021 fiscal relief that would truly help.

Another option could be extending Jarrett, but to speculate on what a contract like that would look like could go in too many directions for how it could free up money for Atlanta.

Trading Jones

As Fontenot takes potential calls, there are some things to consider. First is Fontenot didn’t “want to put a number on it” of what it would take to make a deal happen, so it’s not quite clear what the demarcation line is for Atlanta between keeping or trading.

Due to Jones’ age – he’s 32 – some teams may not be interested. Others have their own cap conundrums, so taking on Jones’ contract would not be a palatable plan for those teams. Others may feel good about their receiver corps.

And if you are a team interested in trading for Jones, you either would be one of two things: A team believing it’s a star receiver away from a Super Bowl, or one trying to find a top option for a young quarterback to help him build.

But there would be clubs where a move like this could make sense.

New England: With around $16.5 million in cap space, the Patriots would have the room to make a deal. Bill Belichick has shown no concerns going after top players this offseason in free agency, and he has made trades to acquire players – particularly wide receivers. Remember, this is a franchise that traded for Randy Moss and Wes Welker in 2007 and Brandin Cooks in 2017. Plus, Belichick made a move for Corey Dillon in 2004. So the Patriots have made moves for playmakers in the past. While New England did sign Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne in free agency, Jones is another class of receiver and would give veteran Cam Newton and rookie Mac Jones a high-level target every down.

San Francisco: Reuniting Kyle Shanahan with Jones would be intriguing and with cap room of $17.5 million, there is space to figure out a deal. Compensation would have to come in something other than a first-round pick, though, since San Francisco doesn’t have any in 2022 or 2023 because of the Trey Lance deal. But the Niners could use a receiver, especially since neither Deebo Samuel nor Brandon Aiyuk was incredibly healthy last year. There’s also the Jimmy Garoppolo contract question as well that would seemingly play into any high-money move San Francisco would make. But Jones would fit into the scheme and end up on a contender.

Indianapolis: The Colts have the cap room (just over $21.5 million) and a quarterback in Carson Wentz who could use a high-level receiver. Other than T.Y. Hilton, the Colts’ receivers are long on potential and lacking in true production. Hilton’s production has waned, too, including just 56 catches for 762 yards and five touchdowns last year. Not bad numbers, but the addition of Jones to Hilton would be a win for Wentz and a team seemingly in a win-now mode after making the playoffs in two of the last three years. Plus, general manager Chris Ballard has been bold in his trades before – between the Wentz deal this year and trading for DeForest Buckner a year ago.

Las Vegas: The Raiders don’t have the cap room some other teams do (just over $5.279 million), but Jon Gruden has never shied away from trying to land impact playmakers. And Jones is that. There’s also a lot of youth in that receiving corps, including potential standouts Bryan Edwards and Henry Ruggs III, and a player like Jones could add a No. 1 option, a mentor and a key piece to an offense that already has Darren Waller and Josh Jacobs. It’d be a fit for a team that has been improving under Gruden.

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