Tampa Bay Buccaneers sign Julio Jones, get Chris Godwin back on the same day

In the span of an hour, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed Julio Jones and learned Chris Godwin would start training camp on time.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver depth chart just got a lot stronger. In the span of an hour on Monday, the Bucs signed veteran Julio Jones to a one-year deal and learned fellow pass catcher Chris Godwin would be available for the start of training camp after tearing his ACL in December.

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Julio Jones, Chris Godwin boost Buccaneers’ receiving corps

As of this morning, the Buccaneers were set to deploy Mike Evans, Russell Gage, and an assortment of WR4 types when the 2022 season got underway. Now, Jones is returning to the NFC South, as first reported by ESPN and confirmed by PFN’s Aaron Wilson. Meanwhile, Godwin avoided the physically unable to perform (PUP) list, meaning he shouldn’t miss any games to begin the year.

Jones, 33, spent the 2021 campaign with the Titans after the Falcons traded him to Tennessee in exchange for a second-round pick. It ended up being a disaster of a transaction for the Titans, as Julio suffered a foot injury and appeared in just 10 games. He posted a 31-434-1 line before being released in the offseason.

Jones didn’t draw any known interest on the free agent market until signing with the Bucs, and it’s fair to wonder how much he has left in the tank. He was still effective as of 2019 (99-1,394-6 in 15 games), but Jones has missed 14 games over the past two seasons.

Still, Tom Brady has shown a clear preference for veteran wideouts, and Julio probably won’t be asked to be a full-time starter. With Evans, Godwin, and Gage at the top of the pecking order, Jones can settle in as a depth/package option. That should limit his wear and tear and keep him healthy as he guns for his first Super Bowl ring.

Of course, Jones will also help Tampa if they want to ease Godwin back into the swing of things. The Bucs clearly didn’t have too much concern about Godwin’s knee injury, as they assigned him the franchise tag before ultimately agreeing to a three-year, $60 million extension.

Reports over the summer indicated that Godwin was likely to begin training camp on the PUP list and potentially be sidelined into the season. Tampa Bay’s decision to sign Gage to a three-year, $30 million deal was widely viewed as protection against a prolonged Godwin absence. Yet, Godwin is well ahead of schedule after putting up 98 catches for 1,103 yards and five scores in 14 games a season ago.

Tampa Bay’s offense is loaded

Despite losing Rob Gronkowski to retirement, the Buccanneers’ offensive skill group remains among the best in the NFL. Evans, Godwin, and Gage represent one of the league’s top trifectas, and Tampa Bay has plenty of depth behind them.

General manager Jason Licht has consistently taken shots on receivers in the middle rounds, and the club is now reaping the rewards of those decisions. Tyler Johnson (fifth round, 2020) and Jaelon Darden (fourth round, 2021) will probably never turn into stars, but they’re excellent depth options. And Tampa Bay still has veterans like Scotty Miller, Breshad Perriman, and Cyril Grayson Jr. on its roster.

From top to bottom, the Bucs have arguably the deepest wide receiver corps in the league. The addition of Jones and the availability of Godwin push those backup pass catchers further down the depth chart, opening up a wide range of options for Brady and Co.

At tight end, the Bucs still have Cameron Brate, but they supplemented him by adding fourth-round pick Cade Otton and signing veteran Kyle Rudolph. In the backfield, Tampa re-signed Leonard Fournette and Giovani Bernard and drafted Rachaad White in the third round. Along the offensive line, they acquired Shaq Mason and selected Luke Goedeke to compensate for the losses of Ali Marpet and Alex Cappa.

There’s a theme here: overpreparation. The Buccaneers have stars (and plenty of them), but they also have the depth to overcome injuries that will surely come. Licht and Tampa Bay’s front office have done an outstanding job of planning for every possible contingency on offense. He’s done the same on defense, taking repeated draft swings at critical positions like pass rusher and cornerback. Brady gets most of the credit for the Bucs’ resurgence, but the club’s decision-makers have rebuilt this roster with smart, targeted additions.

Dallas Robinson is a Writer and News Editor at Pro Football Network. You can read his other work here and follow him on Twitter: @dallasdrobinson.

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