While Julio Jones catching droves of big passes from quarterback Tom Brady didn’t pan out with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the free agent wide receiver could join Brady’s first NFL team — the New England Patriots.
USA Today’s Patriots Wire suggested Jones as an option for New England amid his quiet free agency market. The seven-time Pro Bowler only tallied 24 catches for 299 yards and two touchdowns amid an injury-riddled 2022 season, but the Patriots could add depth to the receiver corps at low cost with the former Alabama star.
“There was a time when Julio Jones joining the Patriots was considered one of the league’s greatest pipe dreams. Just imagine the passing numbers the team could have put up with legendary quarterback Tom Brady throwing the ball to Jones when he was still in his prime,” Patriots Wire’s Jordy McElroy wrote.
Brady recruited Jones to Tampa, but the Bucs didn’t get a prime version of Jones though he showed flashes a few times in 2022. One of those few highlights came when Jones caught the second to last touchdown pass of Brady’s storied career, for now, on a 30-yard pass against the Dallas Cowboys in a 31-14 Wild Card game loss in January.
“Brady has retired from football, and Jones is clearly in the twilight of his Hall of Fame-worthy career. However, the Patriots could still use a big-bodied receiver that can threaten on the outside,” McElroy wrote. “Jones would give them that in an AFC East division that looks to be the toughest in the league.”
The Patriots already added wide receiver Ju-Ju Smith-Schuster from the Kansas City Chiefs this offseason to pair with DeVante Parker and Kendrick Bourne. New England notably lost its top receiver from 2022, Jakobi Meyers, in free agency to the Las Vegas Raiders.
Tampa Bay has little reason to re-sign Jones, who just played for his third team in two years. He missed seven games, and the Bucs have a strop top three at receiver with Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Russell Gage.
Injuries Hobbled Julio Jones’ Career
Injuries played a significant role in Jones’ career downswing the past three seasons, beginning with the final year of his five-year $71.25 million deal with the Atlanta Falcons in 2020.
He mustered 51 catches for 771 yards and three touchdowns in his final year with the Falcons in 2020 amid hamstring injuries. That problem picked up again for him with the Tennessee Titans in 2021 where he only caught 31 passes for 434 yards and a touchdown.
The Titans ultimately cut him after the season, and the Bucs signed him right before training camp after former tight end Rob Gronkowski retired in late June. Bucs head coach Todd Bowles said Jones could help make up for the void left by Gronkowski at the time.
Julio Jones Could Sign for Lower Price Tag
Jones, who made $3.45 million with the Bucs in 2022, arguably could sign for the league minimum in 2023.
Neither Spotrac nor Over The Cap list a suggested signing value for Jones. The Patriots sit at $4.66 million over the salary, according to Spotrac, so the Patriots would need to make room for Jones.