Updates from Sunday, Mar. 16
ESPN's Josina Anderson provides a statement from James Jones discussing a team that he would be interested in playing for next season:
WR James Jones just told me he wants this known: "I would love the opportunity to play for the Carolina Panthers. I would love to play with Cam (Newton)."
Updates from Tuesday, Mar. 11
Tony Pauline of DraftInsider.net reports two teams considered to be interested in obtaining James Jones' services:
I'm told wide out James Jones receiving heavy interest from the Detroit Lions & New York Jets...Green Bay Packers may still be in the mix..— Tony Pauline (@TonyPauline) March 11, 2014
James Jones has enjoyed seven seasons as a member of the Green Bay Packers and has developed into a respected NFL wide receiver. However, the seasoned veteran is being realistic about the business side of the league as he prepares to enter free agency on March 11.
Packers general manager Ted Thompson and Co. have made an extension for Pro Bowl wideout Jordy Nelson a priority this offseason. The regime seems content to let Jones test the open market rather than re-sign him right away, and that's led Jones to at least look elsewhere—even though he holds out some hope that he could return to Green Bay.
In an interview with NFL Network on Tuesday, Jones outlined his situation. He indicated that he'd ideally like to continue playing for the Packers, but Jones also thought about the Indianapolis Colts and San Diego Chargers as potential landing spots, per NFL.com's Dan Hanzus:
Honestly, I feel that there is a chance that I can be back, and then I honestly feel that there's a chance that I can't. This is the time where you just kind of wish that something would happen so you can know where you're going...I've thought about places that I would like to go play, whether it's in Indy or there's coming back home, San Diego or somewhere. Teams have popped up in my head. I can't say I haven't thought about it, but in a perfect world I'd love to go back (to Green Bay).
With how stacked the receiving corps is in Green Bay and how much superstar quarterback Aaron Rodgers can elevate the level of play from his supporting cast, it seems Jones is destined to be the odd man out.
Between Nelson, Randall Cobb and even Jarrett Boykin to go to with an improved running game, the Packers have enough playmakers around Rodgers to keep the offense operating at a high level. Adam Levitan of Rotoworld.com reported what head coach Mike McCarthy had to say about Boykin's emergence after a year in which he had 49 receptions for 681 yards and three touchdowns:
Mike McCarthy on WR Jarrett Boykin: "I'm as high on Boykin as anybody in our building," FA James Jones a goner: http://t.co/i9SaLC5KWE— Adam Levitan (@adamlevitan) February 24, 2014
Thompson must focus on building the defense, which has struggled in recent seasons, making it all the more probable that Jones won't return—barring a generous, massive discount from what he'd likely get elsewhere.
A source told Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that Jones likely wouldn't be offered a new contract at all by the Packers, and that Feb. 22 report also documented what Jones' agent, Frank Bauer, had to say on the matter.
"I don't think Ted Thompson wants him," said Bauer.
ESPNWisconsin.com's Jason Wilde logged more of what Jones had to say to NFL Network during his two-day stint there, and he even implicated playing with signal-caller Russell Wilson for the Seattle Seahawks as a possibility:
Yeah there are a couple of quarterbacks out there. Not saying they’re better than the guy that I’m playing with now, but there are a couple of guys out there. I wouldn’t mind playing with some of the young guys – Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson. I wouldn’t mind playing with those guys but I would love to stay put and play with A-Rod though.
Bleacher Report's Aaron Nagler mentioned Jones as a player on a similar level with some of the best receivers available this offseason in free agency:
The conventional wisdom that Eric Decker is obviously better than James Jones or Emmanuel Sanders is curious.— Aaron Nagler (@Aaron_Nagler) March 5, 2014
If Jones plays for any of the teams he's interested in ahead of this next chapter of his NFL story, it seems like a winning situation regardless of where he lands.
Which team would be the best fit for James Jones?
The Colts need more weapons to complement young franchise QB Andrew Luck, and Jones is a versatile player who can line up in the slot and out wide. In addition to serving as a capable possession receiver, Jones is excellent at using his body to shield defenders and would give Luck a direly needed red-zone target. Jones caught a whopping 14 touchdowns in 2012 before battling multiple injuries this past season.
As for the Chargers, Philip Rivers enjoyed a resurgence under center in 2013, guiding San Diego to the playoffs. Adding Jones to the equation in an offense that already features bright young star Keenan Allen would give the Chargers an added lift in a tough AFC West division.
It remains to be seen what the Seahawks will do to their loaded roster after winning Super Bowl XLVIII, but Jones could be an upgrade over Golden Tate, who is one of Seattle's marquee free agents.
Jones should draw the interest of other teams, so there is bound to be more buzz about him moving forward.
As he turns 30 at the end of March, this is Jones' last shot at a big payday. So while he says he'd like to stay with the Pack, that would be the most surprising outcome of all.