Julio Jones isn't done yet, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Tom Brady is the perfect QB to prove it | Goodbread
What's left for Julio Jones?
Well, nothing to prove, certainly.
But if we're talking about what's left for him to accomplish in the NFL, the former Alabama star answered that Tuesday in signing a one-year contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that amounts to a "show-me" deal for an older veteran whose career has been in decline. He needs a Super Bowl ring to complement that 2009 BCS national championship ring of his, and few clubs can fit his finger for it better than the Bucs.
And for the most talented guy to ever play the position at Alabama – yes, that's a hill I can die on – here's betting he's got a career rebound somewhere inside that lionhearted determination he's carried since he was a teenager.
The Tennessee Titans traded two draft picks to the Falcons for Jones and cut bait after one season. They were looking for a reasonable facsimile of Falcons Julio – a frontline weapon who could change a game – and never got it. The Bucs probably won't, either, but that doesn’t mean Jones, now 33, can’t end his career in Tampa on a much better note than the tune he played in Music City.
The Titans are not believers. I am.
He doesn't run like once did, that's a fact. But who better to overcome a lost step than Jones, who profiles with all the traits an aging pro receiver needs to do so:
Physical style? Check.
Fearless in traffic with strong hands at the catch point? Check.
Willing blocker? Check.
All those attributes have always come to Jones naturally, and were evident right from his freshman year at Alabama in 2008. Fourteen years later, he can still pack all that in a suitcase bound for Tampa Bay and make a difference, even if he can't light up the stopwatch like he once did. Throw in the leadership he can bring to a locker room, and the Bucs made a wise, low-risk move with more than enough upside.
It's also the perfect team for Jones to get the best out of what he has left for the game. Club and player are both in ring-chasing mode, with the Bucs loading up on veteran experience to see if Tom Brady has one more Lombardi Trophy in his arm, and Jones looking to punctuate his career with the last thing it lacks: a Super Bowl title.
The Foley, Alabama, native can also get an objective career odometer reading with Brady directing the show. If the best quarterback in football history can't get him the ball, that would be a good sign that his Hall-of-Fame-worthy career has met its finish line.
It's a better bet that he finds at least decent success in a supporting role.
Give him chances in the red zone, where size plays better than speed. Work him in the slot, where he'll have an easier time getting open. He'll have to stay a lot healthier than he was last year if it's going to work. Injuries had him in and out, and mostly out, of the Titans lineup in what was the least productive season of his career. He made just two starts, missed seven games entirely, and when he did play, he looked like a shell of Falcons Julio.
But the Buccaneers don't need Jones to star in the show. The Julio who made seven Pro Bowls and led the NFL in receiving yards per game three times isn't coming back. The Bucs have former Texas A&M receiver Mike Evans, who Alabama fans don't care to remember, for the lead role. But a healthy Jones could be a worthy complement to Evans.
He deserves both that chance, and that outcome.
Reach Chase Goodbread at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @chasegoodbread