The Tampa Bay Buccaneers made a big splash Tuesday afternoon when they signed future Hall of Fame wide receiver Julio Jones. This created a lot of buzz across the NFL world, particularly amongst Buccaneers’ fans. And why wouldn’t it? After all, many believe (myself included) that Jones has been the best wide receiver in the NFL over the last decade.
With that said, Jones is not the player he once was. He’s totaled just over 1,200 yards over the last two seasons with just four touchdowns. So that leads us to the obvious question; how much does Julio Jones have left in the tank?
Certainly he isn’t the guy who led the league in receiving yards in 2018. However, that’s not to say he doesn’t have value either. In reality, expectations should be somewhere in the middle.
What He Is
Jones is still a smooth route runner with all the craftiness of an eleven year veteran. He knows how to create separation and get open. There will always be value in that.
He’s also very experienced. Jones has played in this league for more than a decade and knows what it takes to get to the top of the mountain. A quarterback like Tom Brady will love this reliability and professionalism that Jones brings to the table.
In short, Jones is dependable. He can make a nice security blanket in the short and intermediate passing game. That’s something the Buccaneers were lacking in last season.
What He Isn’t
There’s no two ways about it, Jones has lost a step. At 33 years old he isn’t the athlete he was five years ago when he was lighting the league on fire. His days of being a star playmaker are over.
This is in part due to injuries. Jones has missed 14 games over the last two years. After being a workhorse for the majority of his career, wear and tear has caught up with him.
Despite being 6’3 and 220 lbs, Jones isn’t, and never has been, a great red zone threat. In 11 seasons he’s had years of three or fewer touchdowns four times. That number will likely become five as he continues to age.
In terms of special teams, you can expect basically nothing. Perhaps Jones might make an appearance to recover an onside kick, but other than that he brings no value. He’s too established in the league and too old to even be considered for this type of role.
Where Does He Fit?
Jones will certainly take a back seat to Mike Evans and Chris Godwin when healthy. He will also likely be behind offseason signing Russell Gage who inked a three year $30 million contract a few months ago. At this point in their career I expect Gage to be a more versatile and productive player.
This leaves Jones as likely the fourth option at receiver. He should be comfortably ahead of guys like Cyril Grayson or even Scotty Miller. This is an ideal role because it will preserve him throughout the year and not wear him down.
This is how the Buccaneers can maximize Jones’ value. If I had to guess, I’d expect him to play in the ballpark of 20 snaps per game. If he can give this offense 400-500 yards by the end of the year then it will be a great signing.
By adding Jones the Bucs have added great depth and experience. He isn’t the player that he used to be, but he doesn’t have to be in Tampa Bay. What he is now is perfect for the role the Bucs need him to play.
This signing will hopefully insure that this team isn’t in the position it was down the stretch last year. With Jones as a fourth wide receiver it gives breathing room should injuries occur. That might be all that’s necessary for the Buccaneers to bring home their third championship and for Jones to get that elusive Super Bowl ring.
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