Saturday, August 13, 2022

Buccaneers sign Julio Jones: Todd Bowles explains why team added another Tom Brady weapon before training camp

Tom Brady got another weapon this week with the Buccaneers signing former Falcons star Julio Jones to a one-year deal. But did he really need him? Wasn’t Tampa Bay already talented enough? Coach Todd Bowles explained the team’s rationale for adding Jones on the eve of training camp, and it mostly had to do with offsetting other losses in the lineup.

“Well he’s still a good football player,” Bowles said of Jones, who spent 2021 with the Titans. “(But) we gotta replace Gronk’s catches, you know?” So we’ve got an extra weapon, especially in the red zone and out in the field, and we’re gonna put him to use, and he gives us a chance to be more creative in some of the things that we do, and we’re happy to have him.”

Bowles, of course, is alluding to Rob Gronkowski, the longtime Brady companion who retired this offseason after two years as one of TB12’s top targets at tight end. But Gronk’s departure isn’t the only reason Tampa Bay sought Jones’ help, even with big names like Mike Evans and Chris Godwin atop the receiver depth chart.

“If you look at last year, we got beat up pretty good in the receiver room and we kinda limped to the finish line at the end,” Bowles said, “so if you wait ’til midseason, you’re not gonna get a good football player, you’re gonna be grabbing guys, so (general manager) Jason (Licht)’s very smart, we’re gonna do the smart thing and try to get a lot of depth now so we don’t have to stumble or hit a rock (later) … when we’ve got people that can step in that know how to play.”

Both Evans and Godwin suffered injuries down the stretch in 2021, and the latter is still recovering from a torn ACL. Tampa Bay also signed former Falcons starter Russell Gage in free agency this year, but Jones said he’s been eyeing a team-up with Brady and the Buccaneers since the Titans released him in late March.

“Once I got the call from Tennessee … I already told (my agent) where I wanted to play,” Jones said. “For me, it’s not a money play, it’s just for me, knowing my value and knowing what I have to offer … to be a part of something new. (The Buccaneers) have everything they need already. … It’s a surreal moment. It’s amazing. I’m ready to go.”

The 33-year-old Jones, a two-time All-Pro and seven-time Pro Bowler, was one of the NFL‘s most dominant pass catchers at the height of his game, but he’s missed 14 games since 2020 due to injuries. Bowles said the former Falcon is healthy now, and that the Buccaneers will monitor his conditioning as camp progresses, while Jones indicated that his chief goal upon arriving at camp is learning his new team’s system.

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