Although the Buccaneers have two Pro Bowl wide receivers and gave former Falcon Russell Gage a $10MM-per-year deal this offseason, they are not stopping here at wide receiver. A rather notable ex-Gage teammate is coming to Tampa.
The Bucs reached a one-year agreement with Julio Jones on Tuesday, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. He will team with Gage, his Atlanta teammate of three seasons, along with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin in what will be another decorated Tampa Bay receiver stable. Jones committed to the Bucs for $6MM, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. The deal can be worth up to $8MM.
This news comes shortly after Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times noted Godwin will not start camp on the Bucs’ active/PUP list (Twitter link). It would certainly have been understandable if Godwin, who suffered a torn ACL in December and underwent surgery Jan. 3, eased into camp work. But the former Pro Bowler will not require a roster move to begin practice. Coupled with the Jones addition, the Bucs will have one of the most accomplished wideout groups in modern NFL history.
While Tampa Bay signing an All-Decade wideout to pair with Tom Brady is not exactly new, given the team’s multiyear partnership with Antonio Brown, Jones brings none of the off-field baggage Brown does. That said, Brown displayed a higher performance level than Jones last season. Jones has seen hamstring trouble sidetrack his career, leading to an absence-laden Titans season and a several-month free agency stay — after Tennessee made the 2021 trade acquisition a cap casualty in March. The Bucs will still take a flier on the player who ripped off the most prolific six-year stretch by a receiver in NFL history.
Jones’ 9,388 receiving yards from 2014-19 are the most in a six-season span ever, but in the 2020s, the former perennial Pro Bowler has missed 14 games. Most of those absences came because of hamstring trouble. Jones’ hamstring issues led him to Tennessee’s IR list in 2021, a season in which he finished with 31 catches for 434 yards and one touchdown. Those were easily career-worst totals for the future Hall of Famer, but the Bucs will attempt to coax a bounce-back effort in Jones’ age-33 season.
The Bucs are making this signing despite rostering Scotty Miller, Breshad Perriman, 2021 fourth-round pick Jaelon Darden and 2020 fifth-round pick Tyler Johnson as well. Miller’s rookie-contract contributions notwithstanding, he is not a lock to make Tampa Bay’s roster. The same can probably be said for Jones, who will need to show — at least during camp and the preseason — he can submit a stretch of healthy work to be part of this talented receiving corps. Jones staying healthy during the preseason should all but assure him a spot on this roster.