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AP photo by John Bazemore / Former University of Alabama football stars Julio Jones, left, and Derrick Henry speak after Henry's Tennessee Titans beat Jones' Atlanta Falcons 24-10 in September 2019 in Atlanta. The Falcons and Titans have agreed to a trade that will send Jones, a seven-time Pro Bowl wide receiver, to Tennessee, where he'll join an offense that includes Henry, who rushed for more than 2,000 yards last season.

ESPN pro football analyst Louis Riddick, one of the best in the business, sounded more like a Tennessee Titans fan than a jaded journalist Sunday afternoon as he discussed the trade that will send seven-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Julio Jones from the Atlanta Falcons to the Titans in exchange for a second-round pick in next year's NFL draft and a 2023 fourth-round selection.

The Titans also will receive a 2023 sixth-round pick from the Falcons in the pending deal (Jones must pass a physical).

"Todd Downing has to be just giddy thinking about the kind of athletes he has on the perimeter," Riddick said of the newly promoted Titans offensive coordinator. "When you look at A.J. (Brown) and Julio, you have two of the premier athletes in the NFL, regardless of position. There's nothing you can't do from a route-running standpoint."

At least that's the dream.

And it is a realistic dream if both receivers stay healthy, which hasn't always been the case with the 32-year-old Jones of late; witness his three total touchdown snags last season. Yet when the former Alabama great is injury free, he's still one of the top 10 receivers in the league, a status that former Ole Miss star Brown also holds.

And just imagine, to return to Riddick, the nightmare a defense will face next season when Downing's offense takes the field. On one side should stand Jones and his career stats of 848 catches, 12,896 receiving yards, 60 touchdowns and 15.2 yards per catch. On the other side of the field will stand Brown, whose two-year pro career has totaled 122 catches, 19 touchdowns and a whopping 17.4 yards per catch, including many in heavy traffic.

Talk about picking your poison if you're in an opposing secondary.

But that's not all of your troubles if you're a defensive coordinator, for if you focus too closely on the pass, there's Derrick Henry, who rushed for an NFL-best 2,027 yards and 17 scores last season, gashing you with the run.

Intimidating? You bet.

Nor did it take long for the smart guys in Las Vegas to weigh in on the trade. Tennessee's odds at Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill to win the Super Bowl went from 35-1 to 30-1 on Sunday afternoon. The Titans' odds to capture the AFC title similarly dropped from 18-1 to 15-1. They're now also tied with the Indianapolis Colts to win the AFC South Division at +110.

If nothing else, at least early on, the excitement over the sweet sounds that could be emanating from the Music City's Nissan Stadium this autumn should have the place filled to the rim and rocking as it hasn't since 2008, when the team posted the best regular-season mark in the NFL (13-3) only to lose its first playoff game to the Baltimore Ravens.

Assuming head coach Mike Vrabel can assemble a respectable defense, Ryan Tannehill continues to play like one of the top five or six quarterbacks in the league — for comparison's sake, merely consider that Tannehill ranked third last season in deep-ball completions (49% on throws of 20 or more yards), while the Falcons' Matt Ryan was 18th at 39%.

No wonder Tannehill referred to the combination of Brown and Jones next season as "our dynamic duo."

This is not to say the Falcons made a mistake getting rid of Jones. Atlanta has had three straight losing seasons. Sometimes less is more, especially when it means more salary cap room, which the Falcons desperately need in order to rebuild and which trading Jones guarantees to the tune of more than $15 million for 2021.

Nor is Atlanta exactly short on quality targets in the passing game, even minus Jones. They'll still have the immensely talented Calvin Ridley, as well as former Florida tight end Kyle Pitts — the No. 4 overall pick this year — Russell Gage, Olamide Zaccheaus and sixth-round pick Frank Darby. More than half the teams in the NFL would trade their pass catchers for the Falcons' in the blink of an eye.

But for this season only, this is more about giving a Titans team that reached the AFC title game in January 2020 a chance for something bigger.

Here's what Tennessee general manager Jon Robinson told reporters on Sunday about Jones: "He's big, he's fast, he's tough, he's great with the ball in his hands, a willing blocker. I think a lot of things that we ask of our receivers — get open, catch and block — he certainly checks those boxes and has done it at a high level in the National Football League."

JRob also said something every member of Titans Nation is sure to have said the moment they heard the news: "It's a big day for our team."

At least it is in June. It will be January of 2022 before we realize whether this big trade led to a really big season for a franchise that's never won a Super Bowl and hasn't reached one since 1999, or if the Falcons smartly cut loose a $15 million financial liability a year or two past his prime.

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Mark Wiedmer

Contact Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @TFPWeeds.

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