As training camp has gotten underway for all 32 NFL teams, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have brought an experienced playmaker into the fold. 11-year NFL veteran Julio Jones has signed a one-year deal with the team to provide quarterback Tom Brady with another option at wide receiver for the 2022 season.
What can we expect?
The acquisition of the 6’3” wide receiver comes at an interesting time. Throughout the summer, former Tampa Bay tight end Rob Gronkowski had stated several times that his intentions are to remain retired, even if Brady wants him to return to the field. While Gronkowski is not the player that he once was, he still provided a formidable red zone threat for Brady.
Jones’ presence provides a little bit of insurance for the team on two fronts. While he will not line up at tight end, the veteran has displayed elite ball tracking skills over the course of his career, and could be looked to when the Bucs offense gets close to the goal line.
The signing also allows the team to take a cautious approach with recovering wide receiver Chris Godwin. He suffered an ACL injury towards the end of the 2021 regular season, and it is unclear at this time whether or not he will be ready for Week 1 this year. According to recent reports, Godwin has been cleared to participate in training camp, but the team might not want to aggressively push him. Jones can soak up some of those routes in camp and in the preseason while Godwin gets fully right.
Jones’ recent history
In what was viewed as a blockbuster trade last year, the Tennessee Titans traded for Julio Jones with the idea that he could be a missing piece for their roster. On paper, the combination of Jones, dynamic young wide receiver A.J. Brown, and battering ram running back Derrick Henry would form an unstoppable offense.
It did not quite unfold that way however, as soft-tissue injuries plagued Jones throughout the 2021 campaign. The Titans tried to manage his hamstring ailments by limiting his reps in practice. Even with that strategy, Jones only appeared in 10 regular season games. He caught 31 passes for 434 yards and just one touchdown.
The glory days
Before his quick stint in Tennessee, Jones had a remarkable stretch with the Atlanta Falcons. He is one of the best players in franchise history, and was one of the best receivers in the NFL for several years. Julio Jones made the Pro Bowl seven times in Atlanta, and was named to the All-Pro team twice in that span as well.
He led the league in receiving yards twice in 2015 and 2018. In 2016, he became only the sixth receiver in NFL history to record a 300 yard receiving game, which he accomplished against the Carolina Panthers.
It is not surprising that Tampa Bay would be interested in Jones, as they have been on the other side of his brilliant play for nearly a decade. The former Falcons star has accumulated more yards and touchdowns against the Buccaneers than any other team in his career.