Between the release of Antonio Brown last season and Rob Gronkowski’s retirement this offseason – not to mention concerns about Chris Godwin coming off a torn ACL – the Buccaneers receiving depth has taken a hit of late. But they took another step toward ensuring Tom Brady has the weapons he needs for (at least) one more Super Bowl run, as they announced the signing of veteran wide receiver Julio Jones Tuesday.
We’d been waiting to see when and where Jones would sign, coming off a season where he played in 10 games and didn’t make much of an impact for the Titans. The now 33-year-old opted for a one-year deal with the Buccaneers, giving them another big name to play with. But does this deal actually matter for Fantasy?
It very well could, though it depends first and foremost on Jones staying healthy. That’s been an issue for him of late, as he has missed seven games in each of the past two seasons – and that’s not even counting the five games last season where he played half or fewer of the Titans snaps. Hamstrings have been the primary issue for Jones recently, and given that, it’s hard to expect him to be a full-time player at this point in his career.
But he probably isn’t entirely washed up, either. Jones was still quite good back in 2020 when healthy, and even in 2021, when he was never fully right, he still averaged 4.5 catches for 61.8 yards in six games where he played more than half the Titans snaps. The Buccaneers aren’t bringing him in to be the No. 1 wide receiver, and he might not even be a top two option if Godwin is healthy.
But he’s another potentially dangerous weapon for Brady to lean on, and he could prove especially helpful if Godwin has to miss time. Godwin surprisingly wasn’t placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list Tuesday, but that doesn’t mean he’s guaranteed to be out there by Week 1 – he’ll be just around nine months removed from surgery to repair his ACL by the Buccaneers opener, which would put him on the very early end of the expected timetable to return from that injury.
Jones’ biggest appeal for the Bucs is likely as Godwin insurance, and he could be especially productive if he got to spend some time playing as the big slot receiver Godwin typically serves as in this offense. If Godwin were to miss some time, it would make Jones an intriguing Fantasy option – though he would have to be healthy himself, obviously.
I don’t think there’s much risk for Mike Evans‘ role here, and if Godwin is 100%, I think he’ll remain Brady’s favorite target. However, a healthy Jones is definitely a threat to Russell Gage’s appeal and makes him tougher to trust as a mid-round target for your WR3/4 spot.
All in all, I’m not moving Jones super high up in my rankings, but I think he becomes an intriguing roll of the dice in the WR4/5 range. I’ll keep Gage ahead of him, but not much – both slot in between 41 and 46. I’m also not moving Evans or Godwin down as a result of this move, though I’m still watching out for reports about Godwin’s availability, and perhaps Jones gives them a bit more comfort in holding Godwin back until he’s 100%.
That’ll get sorted out in the coming weeks. For now, this is a move that probably doesn’t matter all that much for Fantasy, but it’s still Julio Jones playing with Tom Brady, so you can’t just ignore it – Antonio Brown revived his career (before ultimately derailing it again, of course) with Brady, so maybe Jones can do the same. I’m willing to take a flier on Jones in Fantasy now, but expectations need to be kept in check for now.