The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are “all in” on the Todd Bowles era. Just days after adding former Pro Bowl tight end Kyle Rudolph to the mix, the Bucs signed former All-Pro wideout Julio Jones, despite playmaker Chris Godwin avoiding the physically unable to perform (PUP) list to begin training camp. Now, with a wideout group stacked with talent, the Bucs and QB Tom Brady will need to figure out how to feed all of the hungry weapons on offense.
How Julio Jones’ arrival can impact both phases of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ offense
Jones agreed to a one-year deal with the Buccaneers prior to the start of training camp. While he was seen as a letdown in his one season with the Tennessee Titans last year, Jones is still capable of getting open through his speed, strength, and technique. Jones caught 31 passes for 434 and a touchdown last season, which isn’t a bad output for most complementary wide receivers.
As a complement instead of a crux for the offense, Jones can rotate into the lineup alongside the likes of Godwin, Mike Evans, and Russell Gage. If Tampa Bay needs to win in the red zone, Jones is the perfect asset for that area of the field.
Jones is likely to take on a lot of reps this summer as Godwin recovers from knee surgery. While Godwin’s avoidance of the PUP list is notable, the Buccaneers are likely to take it easy with the young wideout after signing him to a long-term deal this offseason. Evans and Gage are likely to lead the group while Jones, Scotty Miller, and Tyler Johnson supplement the lineup.
Brady is used to having really talented tight ends and wideouts, but he’s never had this much ammo at receiver heading into a season. Those pieces will help him chase his potential eighth Super Bowl win. — Mike Kaye, PFN Lead NFL Reporter
How Jones’ addition could impact fantasy football
Just when you think Brady and the Buccaneers will have a setback, they go and add a future Hall of Famer to their roster. At first glance, it might be easy to dismiss Jones in 2022 for fantasy football. After all, he has struggled the last two years with many calling his age into question, saying Father Time has finally caught up with him.
He’s played in just 19 of a possible 33 games over the previous two seasons for the Falcons and Titans. Jones hit rock bottom in 2021, recording just 31 receptions for 434 yards and one touchdown as hamstring injuries zapped his playing time, placing him eventually on the IR. However, what is not discussed is in the six healthy games where Jones suited up, he averaged 11.7 PPR/game while posting a top-10 YPRR. Those are WR3 numbers while playing in one of the NFL’s most run-friendly offenses.
Things are much different in Tampa. In fact, the Buccaneers were the NFL’s fastest (26.5 seconds per snap) and pass-happiest offense (67% pass rate) in 2021. That’s not likely to change in 2022. We know this offense can support three high-level fantasy-relevant receivers at once. It happened last year with Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Antonio Brown while even keeping Rob Gronkowski fed too.
Although Godwin avoided the PUP list to start training camp, I’m not overly bullish on how efficient he will be to start the season. This is a marathon, not a sprint. When healthy, and until Godwin is up to full speed, Jones as the No. 2 target for Brady is lethal and, by all accounts, makes Jones a value at his current ADP of 162 as the WR57.
By no means do I expect to see prime Jones out there. But what I do expect to see is Jones produce reliable WR3 or better weeks when healthy. Given the draft capital needed to invest in his talent and this offense, that’s a risk worth taking. — Tommy Garrett, PFN Senior Fantasy Analyst
How does this impact the Buccaneers’ betting odds?
For the past few months, the Bucs have been the favorite to reach the Super Bowl from the NFC. They are +750 to win the Super Bowl and -325 to win the NFC South. The addition of Jones did not prompt oddsmakers to adjust any of the Bucs’ season-long odds.
Since Jones has no impact on the Bucs’ betting odds, his biggest impact will come from whether the individual bettor believes the sportsbooks are underrating his impact.
At age 33, Jones is a role player. He’s no threat to Evans or Godwin as the top two receivers. Instead, Jones is an insurance policy for Godwin and someone who will possibly steal some snaps from Gage.
I don’t think Jones has much left in the tank. He’s a future Hall of Famer, but his body just can’t hold up to the rigors of an NFL schedule. Jones has always dealt with nagging injuries throughout his career, but he was able to play through them in his 20s. He just can’t do that anymore.
Whatever I thought of the Bucs prior to the Jones signing is exactly what I think of them now. For me, that’s still the team most likely to reach the Super Bowl from the NFC. — Jason Katz, PFN Fantasy and Betting Analyst
How Jones’ arrival could impact the Bucs’ 2023 NFL Draft plans
The Buccaneers are a team on the prowl for another Super Bowl title. While other franchises have three- or five-year timelines, the Buccaneers are on a one-year timeline each season with Brady at the helm. Jones aligns with that framework, having been signed to a one-year contract. For a team in Tampa Bay’s stage of development, it’s short-term success or bust. And until they have to reset, one-year signings like Jones become important in the spring and summer months.
Naturally, Jones’ arrival doesn’t impact the Buccaneers’ NFL draft plans very much. Jones is 33 years old and a frequent subject of injury, and while he still offers value in a rotational role, he’s largely past his prime. More likely than not, he’s a one-year rental who leaves a spot open on the Buccaneers’ WR depth chart in 2023. There’s a chance he could find himself again, but the writing is on the wall for Jones. Thus, with or without him, the Buccaneers may operate with the assumption that they’ll need to add more young talent at WR in 2023.
Having said that, the Buccaneers already have a decent amount of depth. The duo of Mike Evans and Chris Godwin remains formidable, and Russell Gage, a respectable third option, is signed through 2025. Beyond that, the Buccaneers have a mix of different molds, including size threats like Breshad Perriman, small and speedy weapons like Jaelon Darden, and journeymen like Scotty Miller.
With Jones, Miller, and Perriman scheduled to be free agents in 2023, there’s a good chance Tampa Bay adds to their WR room again in the NFL draft. But that possibility is largely independent of Jones’ presence, which is expected to be short-lived regardless. — Ian Cummings, PFN NFL Draft Analyst