The Tennessee Titans entered the offseason in need of some improvements on the defensive side of the ball. Instead, in their most high profile move of the offseason, they went out and acquired one of the greatest wide receivers of all-time.
The Titans picked up former Atlanta Falcons star Julio Jones for a 2022 second-round pick and a 2023 fourth-round pick. Jones had a down season last season due to injuries, but still caught 51 passes for 771 yards and three touchdowns in nine games. The season prior, he caught 99 passes in 15 games and he’s caught 83 or more passes in six of the last seven seasons.
Jones is a sure future Hall of Famer and one of the best wide receivers of his generation, which has featured some all-time great ones. But the Falcons have a new coaching staff and front office and seem to be trying to rebuild rather than contend. The trade makes sense for Atlanta in that context – they’re rebuilding and trying to shed salary. But it raises some eyebrows for the modest return – and for who didn’t try to get him, considering the price tag wasn’t steep.
Atlanta has been shopping Jones the entire offseason, and Jones himself let it be known on to Fox Sports that he’d like to be traded in May. Jones didn’t actually know he was live on the air when Fox’s Shannon Sharpe cold-called him, so the ethics of that admission are up for debate, but even if Sharpe used a shady journalistic approach, Jones’ stated desire was out there nonetheless.
Two destinations emerged as intriguing landing spots for Jones. The New England Patriots, who had previous success rejuvenating the career of an all-time great receiver when they added Randy Moss, and the Green Bay Packers, who may or may not be trying to convince Aaron Rodgers to rescind his trade request, with Jones as an appealing prize if he did so. Both scenarios were intriguing, and neither worked out.
For the Patriots, they already spent big with receiving weapons by signing arguably the two best tight ends on the market, so they were perhaps already comfortable with their upgrades in the passing game. Green Bay not making a move for Jones has less clear reasoning, unless they really are considering moving on from Rodgers, in which case adding a pricey veteran like Jones wouldn’t make sense.
But enough about the teams that Jones isn’t playing for. What does his acquisition mean for the Titans?
For starters, their NFL futures odds at a Super Bowl title are already trending up. Secondly, an already potent offense just got potentially more explosive. The Titans put up 491 points last season, fourth in all of football. The biggest winner of having Jones in the lineup is clearly quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Tannehill has become one of the best quarterbacks in football over the last two seasons, completing nearly 70 percent of his passes with 55 touchdowns and just 13 interceptions in 28 games as a Titan.
Tannehill also couldn’t hide his excitement. He told the team’s website, “How can you not be excited to play with a guy with the caliber of talent that Julio is and has been for his whole career. So excited to get to know him as a person. Just welcome him to the team and get him acclimated to how we do things.”
The excitement isn’t just for what Jones can do catching the ball, though. It’s for what he can do to take create even more opportunities for A.J. Brown and Corey Davis. Brown has had two straight 1,000-yard seasons and Davis just barely missed that mark last season. Jones gives the team a legit shot at having three 1,000-yard receivers in the same season. Having all three of them on the field together will put immense pressure on opposing secondaries and also ensures that none of the three should face all that many double teams all season as teams try not to risk paying too little attention to any of the group.
Add in running back Derrick Henry, and there’s no doubt that Tennessee has skill position talent that is equal to or better than any team in the league. They still have massive questions on defense, but their offense was good enough last year to lead them to an 11-5 record and a second-straight playoff appearance. Adding Jones makes it likely they’ll be able to at least match that, and surpass it if the defense shows any signs of improvement.