The Falcons parted ways with a franchise legend this offseason, not because they necessarily wanted to, but because they felt they had no other choice.
A trade request that becomes public can have such an effect on a franchise, and it's never easy to say goodbye to a local hero. The entire development surrounding Julio Jones disappointed Falcons owner Arthur Blank, who wondered why a decade together that included fond memories wasn't enough to keep a beloved player in town.
"Julio made it clear that he had certain aspirations and wanted to do it someplace else," Blank said Thursday, via the team's official site. "That was not our original intent. That's the message that we got from the player and human being as well. He gave us 10 great years, which is about half of my ownership. He set all kinds of records, but the time was right for him to move on.
"I think the coach and general manager did a good job trying to get him to stay here, but he was ready to move. One thing about football is that you want a locker room where everyone does want to be here. You don't want even one of the 53 to want to be someplace else."
Blank is undoubtedly spot on when describing the importance of a player's desire (or lack thereof) to be with a team. If all 53 aren't working toward the same result, it's time to discuss changes.
But Blank wanted Jones to spend his entire career in Atlanta. After spending the sixth-overall pick on Jones in the 2011 draft and watching him earn five All-Pro honors (two first-team, three second-team), Blank knew his team had received a significant return on its investment.
He just didn't expect Jones to want out after such a long time spent in Atlanta.
"The part that bothered me personally was the fact that he expressed that he wanted to be traded," Blank said. "We had a 10-year relationship. We had a good relationship. He was productive, a Hall-of-Fame player, and I was disappointed he felt that way. For whatever reasons, I'm not sure, I wasn't able to speak with him. I tried to, but he felt the way he felt and he wanted to make a change."
Jones is now in Tennessee, where he figures to make a significant impact in an offense that already includes running back Derrick Henry and receiver A.J. Brown. He'll begin his 11th season wearing a new helmet and carrying the same expectations he's frequently met in his illustrious NFL career.
Blank will hope for the best for his team's former superstar. And in the meantime, his Falcons will hope they can find a way to replace his premier production.
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