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3 Instant Reactions to Julio Jones' Contract with Buccaneers

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVJuly 26, 2022

Cooper Neill/Getty Images

And just like that, another future Hall of Famer is on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers roster.

ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Tuesday that wide receiver Julio Jones will sign a one-year deal with the NFC South team after also receiving interest from the Green Bay Packers.

It is Tom Brady and not Aaron Rodgers who will have the seven-time Pro Bowler at his disposal, which could mean trouble for opposing secondaries already dealing with plenty of Tampa Bay weapons.

This only further solidifies the Buccaneers' spot on the short list of realistic Super Bowl contenders, but that is far from the only instant reaction to this news.


Julio Is Still a Massive Fantasy Risk

On paper, fantasy football players who plan on drafting Jones should be thrilled with this move.

After all, he is a seven-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro selection who is now teaming up with the greatest quarterback of all time. That should spell instant production and plenty of touchdowns to go with it.

However, Jones is also coming off an injury-plagued 2021 campaign that saw him tally 31 catches for 434 yards and one touchdown in 10 games as a member of the Tennessee Titans. Those were all career-worst numbers, and he looked a step slow even when he was seemingly healthy and on the field.

The 33-year-old figured to benefit from the defensive attention A.J. Brown drew, but he managed a career-low 48 targets and struggled to live up to expectations.

If Jones was an afterthought a number of times in an offense with just one elite wide receiver, it is fair to wonder if that will be even more of the case in an offense with two in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin.

Between the injury risk, the target concern, Jones' age and the fact he will likely go higher in fantasy drafts than he should given the star power that comes with his name, there is plenty of risk involved for managers who plan on turning toward the veteran in 2022.


He Will Still Be a Formidable Red-Zone Weapon

That is not to suggest all is lost for Jones.

Nobody in NFL history is better than Brady at maximizing production from his wide receivers, and the fact that Jones is 6'3" and will likely be defended by second and third cornerbacks for much of the season means the touchdowns will come in the red zone.

That is especially true with safety valve Rob Gronkowski enjoying retirement.

Frankly, Gronk is the blueprint for Jones. The tight end was an all-time great during his prime on the New England Patriots but took something of a backseat at times when he was in Tampa Bay and playing in an offense with Evans, Godwin and Antonio Brown.

Yet Brady still knew how to put him in positions to succeed around the end zone, and the future Hall of Famer had 16 touchdowns in 34 regular-season and playoff games for the Buccaneers.

Opposing secondaries have no choice but to commit additional resources and attention toward slowing down Evans and Godwin; otherwise, they will be consistently torched. That won't change in the red zone, which means Jones will be in some ideal matchups where he can exploit his height advantage on fade routes and more.

Expect him to find the end zone at least five times after doing so just once last year.


Tom Brady Giveth, Tom Brady Taketh Away

The only glaring hole on Jones' resume is the lack of a Super Bowl ring, and, in an ironic twist of fate, his new quarterback is largely to blame for that reality.

It looked as if Jones would win that Lombardi Trophy during the 2016 season when his Atlanta Falcons reached the Super Bowl and jumped out to a 28-3 lead against the Patriots. The wide receiver was in the middle of his prime and posted four catches for 87 yards during the game.

The only problem was, the greatest of all time was on the other side.

Brady led the Patriots to 25 unanswered points in the second half and then engineered a touchdown drive to win the championship in overtime. It was both a dramatic success and further evidence of Brady's individual brilliance on one side and a stunning failure on the other.

Atlanta players and coaches would be forgiven if they never fully got over the loss, but Jones at least has the chance to win an elusive ring with the sport's greatest winner on his side in 2022.

Brady temporarily retired this offseason only to come back in pursuit of what would be an eighth Super Bowl title and perhaps even sixth Super Bowl MVP.

He is the safest bet in NFL history when it comes to finding a quarterback to get a wide receiver a ring, which is surely welcome news for Jones after he previously experienced No. 12 on the NFL's biggest stage from the other sideline.

Jones cementing his legacy with a championship from the same quarterback who ripped one away six years ago would be quite the development for the pass-catcher's career.

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