The Tennessee Titans got aggressive last offseason when they traded a second-round pick along with a fourth-rounder to the Atlanta Falcons for superstar wideout Julio Jones and a sixth-rounder. Jones' tenure in Tennessee was short, fraught with injuries, and is now over. Dianna Russini and Adam Schefter reported the Titans were releasing Jones just before the official start of NFL free agency on Wednesday.
It's always a shock when a brand-name player is unceremoniously cut, but this particular situation makes sense. Jones was slated to make $11.5 million in 2022 with a cap hit of $14.3 million. That kind of pay didn't match Jones' production. In 2021, he caught only 31 passes for 434 yards and one touchdown in 10 games. His best catch for the Titans was one that didn't count, when he made a sick grab against the Seahawks that was ultimately ruled out of bounds.
The Titans are already loaded at their skill positions between Derrick Henry and A.J. Brown. They didn't need someone like Jones taking away touches from those two studs, especially at his price point. Jones is now a free agent for the first time in his career and can go wherever he wishes.
He's lost a lot of his dangerous speed due to injuries piling up, but Jones can still make an impact on a good team. Not as a No. 1 option anymore, but his route-running and acrobatic catch ability haven't gone away yet. Jones is a prime candidate to join a contending team on a short-term deal unless a bad team gives him big money. He comes with a lot of risks, but with high payout potential should he manage to stay healthy.
Here are four possible landing spots for Jones.
New England Patriots
Hello, it is me again, desperately trying to speak the Patriots getting a receiver into existence. New England is always on these lists when it comes to receivers and for good reason. They haven't had a true outside-the-hashmarks threat at wideout since ... Randy Moss? Bill Belichick is good at many things, drafting receivers is not one of them.
This would be one of the aforementioned short-term deals for a good team. although how good the Patriots will be is certainly up for debate considering how loaded the AFC is at quarterback now. But many a veteran has come to New England on a one-year deal to rehabilitate their image and left to get paid. Jones would automatically be the best receiver on the roster and would receive the lion's share of targets while playing for the greatest coach of all time. It makes sense for both sides if Jones wants it.
Kansas City Chiefs
The popular narrative around the Chiefs is that they are loaded with weapons and don't *need* to give Patrick Mahomes more options. Which is true! But last season showed how thin the depth chart is at receiver if Tyreek Hill is struggling with injuries. Plus, KC could use a guy who can dominate the sideline like Jones can when he's at his best. They tried to find that with Josh Gordon last year and it didn't work out. Enter Jones.
It feels unfair, but this does feel very likely. Jones would join a Super Bowl contender boasting the best young QB in football who can make literally any throw. If things go as planned, he'd participate in another deep playoff run. It's arguably his best shot at a Super Bowl ring and the Chiefs need someone like him.
Green Bay Packers
The upside here is obvious for many of the same reasons stated above. Jones gets to play with an MVP quarterback on a Super Bowl contender and the path to the NFC crown is easier than it's been in years even with Tom Brady's return to the Buccaneers. The Packers already boast an undisputed No. 1 target who will demand most of the defense's attention, leaving Jones to feast on lesser cornerbacks without safety help. Even with his new contract the Packers are still incentivized to keep Aaron Rodgers happy and bringing in a Hall of Fame-caliber wideout would certainly do that.
The downside: it's real cold up in Green Bay. That is true to an extent for the other landing spots mentioned here, but nothing at the level Wisconsin has to offer. Jones is from Alabama, played for the Crimson Tide, and spent most of his career in Atlanta. Tennessee feels downright tropical compared to Green Bay in January. There's a very real chance Jones won't sign up for that, and it's hard to blame him.
The Ravens have very little to offer Lamar Jackson as far as weapons go at wideout. Hollywood Brown is a fine receiver but his case of the dropsies are stopping him from reaching legitimate No. 1 level. Mark Andrews is as reliable as they come at tight end but isn't really a game-breaker. Ravens fans have been clamoring for a few seasons to get Jackson some better weapons, and Jones would be just that.
Baltimore would be the best of both worlds for Jones. He'll play on a contending team with one of the best quarterbacks in the game. He'd be very high on the depth chart immediately and would be receiving a good amount of targets. Certainly enough that, if things break right, he could sign one last big deal after 2022. The Ravens have dished out a lot of money in free agency already but have yet to acquire a receiver. Jones could be the one.