During an interview on Cris Collinsworth's podcast, Smith defended the trade, noting that getting Jones' $15.3 million contract for this season off the books helped alleviate salary cap headaches for the Falcons.
"We knew the issue with the cap, and then obviously the cap went down this year, coming off the bizarre year with the pandemic, the cap actually shrunk. So we knew there were going to be some big decisions we would have to make coming up. The way everything worked out, we feel pretty good," Smith said, via Pro Football Talk. "We feel like it was a win-win. With the salary cap, and Julio going to Tennessee and us right now being able to solve our short-term issue with the cap."
In exchange for the salary dump, the Falcons received a 2022 second-round pick and a late-round pick swap in 2023.
Trading Jones away doesn't make the Falcons better in 2021 but does clear some cap issues down the road. Smith's comments suggest he knew when taking over in Atlanta the rebuild might not be a one-year turnaround. If Atlanta saw itself as a Super Bowl contender this season, it wouldn't have traded away a field-tilting talent like Jones despite the contract issues.
Smith entered the building with open eyes regarding the plans new GM Terry Fontenot had for the organization. Trading Jones was a tough move for the club, but Smith makes it clear that goal No. 1 for the new brass was getting the cap in order this season to better attack future years. Jettisoning Jones' salary was a crucial part of that plan.