According to multiple reports, the Tennessee Titans released veteran wide receiver Julio Jones on Wednesday afternoon. General manager Jon Robinson designated Jones’ release as a post-June-1 move, which will eventually save the Titans roughly $9.5 million in cap space. Tennessee will carry a dead cap hit of $8.4 million in 2023.
Robinson swung big when he acquired the disgruntled Jones from the Atlanta Falcons, parting with two mid-round draft picks in 2022 and 2023 in the process. The move backfired in a major way for the Titans, as the aging Jones continued to struggle with recurring hamstring injuries. Jones wound up appearing in just 10 regular-season contests with the Titans and was largely ineffective and limited. Jones recorded career-lows in receptions (31), receiving yards (434) and touchdowns (1) while failing to appropriately complement A.J. Brown.
Jones now immediately reaches the open market as a 33-year-old receiver whose prime years are undeniably behind him. Jones will play for his third different franchise in 2022 in as many years. Jones could be identified by a plethora of teams as an intriguing, low-cost reclamation project. He’s unlikely to earn another sizable contract in free agency given his recent injury concerns. We’ve swiftly identified three free-agent fits for Jones.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
The 49ers are preparing to usher in the Trey Lance era. Jimmy Garoppolo is expected to be traded in a move that will net the 49ers a ton of immediate and future draft capital while freeing up an abundant amount of cap space in the process. General manager John Lynch is expected to use that eventual financial freedom to improve the offense around Lance, as the 49ers attempt to place their franchise quarterback in a fail-proof environment by surrounding him with weapons.
The elite talents that are Deebo Samuel and George Kittle will continue to operate as San Francisco’s one-two punch, and Brandon Aiyuk is an excellent third option in the passing game. The addition of Jones would provide some much-needed depth while ensuring they don’t become overly reliant on the future Canton-bound talent.
49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan spent two seasons (2015-16) as Jones’ offensive coordinator in Atlanta. Jones thrived under Shanahan’s play-calling tendencies while accumulating a staggering 219 receptions, 3,280 receiving yards, and 14 touchdowns across those two campaigns. Jones’ career-best season occurred in 2015, which doubled as Shanahan’s first season as Atlanta’s offensive coordinator. Jones secured an astounding 136 receptions for 1,871 yards in what is largely recognized as one of the greatest single-season outputs in receiver history. A reunion with Shanahan may be just what the doctor ordered for the dwindling Jones.
GREEN BAY PACKERS
Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst should be all in on attempting to secure a Super Bowl title in 2022. The Packers signed franchise quarterback Aaron Rodgers to a historic contract extension that stretches their Lombardi window a few more years. Gutekunst wisely placed the franchise tag on superstar receiver Davante Adams, and the two sides are largely expected to reach a lucrative contract extension before the mid-July deadline that could make Adams the highest-paid receiver in NFL history.
As the Packers attempt to win at least one more Super Bowl before closing the curtain on the Rodgers era, Gutekunst must push his chips into the middle of the table. The Packers have routinely failed to surround Rodgers with a plethora of weapons in the passing game throughout his illustrious career. Rodgers has consistently made the most of his situation by elevating players such as Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Allen Lazard, Robert Tonyan, and Randall Cobb. Gutekunst must better address this situation by placing more playmakers around Rodgers and Adams.
The third-round selection of Clemson’s Amari Rodgers was intriguing a year ago, but Rodgers failed to hit the ground running as a rookie. The Packers are looking to make up for last year’s incredibly disappointing early postseason exit. Jones would move the needle forward.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
The Patriots have experienced a particularly strange offseason thus far. They allowed superstar cornerback J.C. Jackson to sign an extremely lucrative contract with the Los Angeles Chargers without putting up much of a fight. Quality starting offensive lineman Ted Karras departed the franchise for a deal with the Cincinnati Bengals, and fellow starting guard Shaq Mason was traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in exchange for a late-round draft selection. Furthermore, right tackle Trent Brown remains a free agent and the Patriots don’t appear to have a sense of urgency in relation to retaining his services.
Bill Belichick must do a significantly better job surrounding sophomore-to-be quarterback Mac Jones with a better environment going forward and the Patriots have failed in this crucial area thus far. Belichick spent tens of millions of dollars last offseason to improve the Patriots’ pass-catching weapons by signing the likes of Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry, Nelson Agholor, and Kendrick Bourne, but several of those players failed to live up to their billings, and more production is now required.
When healthy, Jones is capable of giving Mac Jones a dominant threat on the boundary. Jones’ development would benefit from an outside receiver that commands attention from opposing secondaries. Jones is still a quality route runner that could benefit from Belichick’s guidance.
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