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Julio Jones trade worked out for the Falcons while the Browns screwed up everything

Jones is one of the highest paid receivers in the NFL, and it's hard to argue that he's not completely worth it.

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

There were high expectations heaped on Julio Jones when the Atlanta Falcons traded away a boatload of draft picks in the 2011 NFL Draft to move up from No. 27 in the order to No. 6 so they could select Jones.

Big, bold trades have happened in the past like the Jacksonville Jaguars trading up from No. 26 to No. 8 for Derrick Harvey, or the Saints trading away every pick they had in the 1999 NFL Draft to move from No. 12 to No. 5 for Ricky Williams. Atlanta's move of 21 spots was just a little bit bigger and little bit bolder than any other, and has set the precedent for going all in on one player.

The Falcons sold out two years' worth of valuable draft picks for Jones and their investment in the receiver on Saturday shows that, four years later, they still believe in the trade they made.

The Falcons got their man

All in all, the Falcons sent the Browns a first-round pick (No. 27), a second-round pick (No. 59) and a fourth-round pick (No. 124) in 2011, and also chipped in the No. 1 pick in 2012 (No. 22) and their No. 4 pick in 2012 (No. 118).


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All for one player. Was it worth it?

"Absolutely," said Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff earlier this year.

And how can you argue with him? No player in Falcons franchise history has racked up more receiving yardage in a single season than Jones did in 2014 with 1,593. He's also one of four players to ever finish a season with more than 100 receptions for the team.

The Falcons proved on Saturday how valuable they consider Jones, giving him a new five-year, $71.25 million deal that makes him the second-highest paid receiver in the NFL. The $47 million guaranteed for Jones trails only the $53.25 million that the Detroit Lions gave Calvin Johnson in 2012.

The Browns didn't get much at all

How did the Browns fare on their end of the trade? Well ... not so hot.

The first-round pick in 2011 was used to trade up and select defensive tackle Phil Taylor. The next three picks were used on Greg Little, Owen Marecic and Brandon Weeden, while the fourth-round selection in 2012 was sent in the package deal that landed the Browns Trent Richardson. Ouch.

Richardson was eventually dealt to the Indianapolis Colts for a first-round pick, so the Browns recouped some of his value, but that pick was used on Johnny Manziel, who has been less-than-stellar early in his career. Taylor lasted the longest of the players acquired via the Jones trade, though he never made it to a second contract. The Browns released Taylor during the first series of cuts in 2015, absorbing a nearly $5.5 million dead money hit in the process.

Considering the Browns' current situation at wide receiver will not feature Josh Gordon in 2015 and the team's hopes will rest on Dwayne Bowe carrying the group, Julio Jones would have made for a nice addition, in hindsight.

Mission accomplished comes with drawbacks

Things aren't necessarily all sunshine and roses for the Falcons, though. Dimitroff is right that the team "absolutely" came away with a win by taking Jones, but one of the trade-offs that comes with trading five high-value draft picks for just one is that it can leave holes in the roster unfilled.

After 23 wins in the first two seasons with Jones on the team and two trips to the postseason, the wheels fell off and the Falcons have just 10 wins in the last two years. Jones is already one of the best receivers in Falcons history, so there's no reason Dimitroff should be regretful, but four more picks to work with, including first- and second-round selections could have helped the Falcons from falling from grace.

Or the Falcons could have made the same picks the Browns did and they'd be much worse off without Jones. So goes the NFL Draft.