Julio Jones has more catches, receiving yards and touchdowns against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers than any other team. Now he has a chance to give back to his former NFC South rival.
On Wednesday, the same day the Buccaneers conducted the first practice of their 2022 training camp, Jones signed a one-year deal to join Tom Brady's high-powered offense. Tampa Bay had an open spot on its 90-man camp roster after waiving tight end Codey McElroy on Tuesday.
Jones played the 2021 season in Tennessee after a prolific decade with the Atlanta Falcons in which he earned seven Pro Bowl berths and two Associated Press first-team All-Pro selections. His career totals include 879 receptions for 13,330 yards and 61 touchdowns. His receiving yards rank 17th in NFL history and first among active players.
A good chunk of that came in the biannual division meetings between the Buccaneers and Falcons, as his career totals against Tampa Bay include 114 receptions for 1,841 yards and 11 touchdowns. He has nine career 100-yard receiving games against his new team, including a 253-yard outing in a 2017 contest.
Jones joins a talented Buccaneers receiving corps headlined by Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and one of his former teammates in Atlanta, Russell Gage. However, Godwin's timetable in his return from a December ACL tear is still unknown and Jones could provide further insurance against his potential unavailability at the start of the season.
View pictures from WR Julio Jone's NFL career thus far.
The Falcons made a dramatic trade in the 2011 draft to move up 20 spots and nab Jones with the sixth-overall pick, a gamble that paid off in a big way. Jones would surpass 1,000 receiving yards in seven of his first nine seasons, highlighted by a 2015 campaign in which he led the NFL in both receptions (136) and receiving yards (1,871); those single-season totals still rank fifth and third, respectively, in league history. Jones averaged 95.5 receiving yards per game during his 10 seasons in Atlanta. His most recent 1,000-yard season and Pro Bowl invitation cmae in 2019, when he caught 99 passes for 1,394 yards and three touchdowns.
Jones' tenure in Atlanta ended with an early-June trade with the Titans last year. Atlanta sent Jones and a 2023 sixth-round pick to Tennessee in exchange for a second-round pick in 2022 and a third-rounder in 2023. As he had in his final campaign in Atlanta, Jones battled injuries during his one season in Nashville, appearing in 10 games and recording 31 catches for 434 yards and a touchdown. His average of 14.0 yards per catch, while shy of his career mark of 15.2, remained impressive.
Jones spent a portion of the 2021 season on injured reserve plus a week on the COVID list. The Titans released him on March 16 with a Post-June 1 designation.
Tampa Bay had the NFL's most prolific passing attack in 2021 and Brady led the NFL in both passing yards and touchdown passes. However, wide receiver Antonio Brown left the team in late December, tight end Rob Gronkowski retired in June and there is the aforementioned uncertainty regarding Godwin's status. If a healthy Jones can recapture a good portion of the form that long made him a tormentor of the Buccaneers, he could now become a significant contributor for them.