Seven-time Pro Bowl WR Julio Jones signs one-year deal with Tampa Bay Buccaneers: It's 'surreal'

Cale Clinton
USA TODAY
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Two-time All-Pro wide receiver Julio Jones has agreed to a one-year deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

"It's a great opportunity for me to be a part of something special in the Buccaneer family," Jones said during a news conference on Wednesday after signing with the team. "Looking forward to getting to work."

He added, "It's just a surreal moment. It's amazing. I'm ready to go, though."

The 33-year-old wide receiver spent last season with the Tennessee Titans after playing the previous 10 seasons for the Atlanta Falcons, who drafted Jones in 2011. 

Jones struggled to stay on the field with the Titans, missing a combined seven games with injuries. He landed on the injured reserve after Week 10 for a hamstring injury, missing three games. In the four games he played following that stint, Jones amassed just 98 receiving yards over a four-game stretch.

Wide receiver Julio Jones waves to fans in January as he leaves the field after the Titans lose to the Bengals in the AFC divisional playoff game.

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In his first year away from Atlanta, he caught 31 targets on 48 targets for 434 yards and a single touchdown. All of those marks serve as career lows.

But, head coach Todd Bowles said Jones is "still a good football player."

"We've got to replace Gronk's catches. We've got an extra weapon, especially in the red zone and out in the field and we're going to put him to use," Bowles said. "It gives us a chance to be more creative in some of the things we do, and we're happy to have him."

After leaving a team where he served as the secondary target next to A.J. Brown, Jones is expected to carry a much smaller role on Tampa Bay. He joins Mike Evans and free-agent signing Russell Gage along with Chris Godwin, who is returning from an ACL tear suffered late in the 2021 regular season. Godwin on Tuesday was cleared to play rather than begin the year on the physically unable to perform list, the Tampa Bay Times' Rick Stroud reported.

"You can say, 'Oh yeah, Julio's with the Bucs, we got Mike (Evans), we got Tom,' but we've all got to put the work in," Jones said. Nobody's going to give us anything. So we've just got to come out here and work each and every day. That's all it's about."

A seven-time Pro Bowl selection, Jones is the all-time NFL leader in career receiving yards per game with 91.9.

The Buccaneers have previously tried to capitalize on revitalizing older wide receivers. Tampa Bay signed 32-year-old Antonio Brown during the team's Super Bowl LV run in 2020. Brown would eventually leave the team last season after running off the field mid-game during Week 16's contest against the New York Jets. 

Jones will now be catching passes from Tom Brady, who came out of a brief retirement at 45 in March. Brady and Jones previously squared off in Super Bowl 51, where the New England Patriots launched a historic comeback from a 28-3 deficit to beat the Falcons.

"Why we got to bring up old stuff? He did it. He did it. He did it," Jones joked, adding that Brady is "a great guy, man – who you want to be leading your ballclub, who you want to play for."

Now, the two will work together to try to bring another Super Bowl to Tampa Bay. 

Contributing: Cydney Henderson, USA TODAY Sports

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