TAMPA — Tom Brady is getting another big target to make another run at the Super Bowl.
The Bucs are signing former Falcons and Titans receiver Julio Jones to a one-year contract, the Tampa Bay Times confirmed Tuesday afternoon.
Jones, 33, was traded from the Falcons to the Titans last season but was placed on injured reserve with a hamstring strain before producing his only receiving touchdown in Week 18 against the Texans. Injuries have forced Jones to miss seven games in each of the past two years.
But the seven-time Pro Bowl player is considered one of the best pass catchers in NFL history with 13,330 receiving yards and 61 career touchdowns.
On the eve of the first workout, which begins Wednesday morning, Jones joined a deep stable of receivers that includes Mike Evans, Russell Gage and Chris Godwin, who won’t have to begin training camp on the physically unable to perform list.
Godwin tore his anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in a 9-0 loss to the Saints in December and underwent surgery Jan. 3. Godwin will be permitted to take part in walk-throughs and individual work while he continues to return to full strength.
The 6-foot-3, 220-pound Jones is first in the NFL among active players in receiving yardage and will provide Brady another proven target with big-play ability.
The signing is reminiscent of the Bucs adding former Steelers receiver Antonio Brown to their eventual Super Bowl 55 championship team. Unlike Brown, Jones comes without the off-field baggage.
A first round-pick out of Alabama by the Falcons in 2011, Jones is certainly someone the Bucs are familiar with. They played 16 games against Jones and he torched them with 114 catches for 1,841 yards and 11 touchdowns.
In 2017, Jones had 12 catches for 253 yards and two touchdowns in a 34-20 win against the Bucs at Atlanta.
While tight end Rob Gronkowski has retired, the Bucs have surrounded Brady with plenty of worthy pass catchers. Last week, they signed Giants tight end Kyle Rudolph. With the top four receivers set, the final two or three spots will be up for grabs between Breshad Perriman, Scotty Miller, Tyler Johnson, Cyril Grayson, Jaelon Darden, Jerreth Sterns and Deven Thompkins.
Godwin was having the best season of his career in 2021 before his knee injury. He was three catches shy of his first 100-reception season and led the Bucs with 1,103 yards and five touchdowns.
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Godwin has made so much progress that the Bucs did not feel the need to place him on the physically unable to perform list by Tuesday’s 4 p.m. deadline. The same holds true for linebacker Lavonte David, who is recovering from a Lisfranc foot injury that he said limited him to about 60 percent in the NFC division playoff loss to the Los Angeles Rams.
Both players will be closely monitored, but the fact that neither had to begin training camp on the PUP list is an encouraging sign.
The target for Godwin is the Bucs’ regular-season opener at Dallas on Sept. 11, and the Bucs are pleased enough with his rehab progress that they are “hopeful” he can play against the Cowboys.
Despite his injury, the Bucs were confident enough that Godwin would make a full recovery this season that they signed him to a three-year, $60 million extension after removing the franchise player tag.
But reaching an agreement with Jones on Tuesday further cemented the Bucs as a favorite to win the NFC. Jones has appeared in only one Super Bowl and lost. Brady rallied the Patriots from a 28-3 deficit for the greatest comeback in the NFL title game.
Now they are teammates, both near the end of their careers, with only one goal in mind.
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