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Has the world ever seen a receiving trio quite like this Bucs group?

John Romano | With the acquisition of Julio Jones, the Bucs have three Pro Bowl receivers. How does that stack up against the NFL’s greatest combos?
Between them, Julio Jones (85), Chris Godwin (14) and Mike Evans (13) have 12 Pro Bowls, 165 receiving touchdowns and more than 27,000 receiving yards in the NFL.
Between them, Julio Jones (85), Chris Godwin (14) and Mike Evans (13) have 12 Pro Bowls, 165 receiving touchdowns and more than 27,000 receiving yards in the NFL. [ DIRK SHADD, MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE, LUIS SANTANA | Times ]
Published Aug. 2

TAMPA — Of course, the trophy is the reason. It’s the reason Tom Brady is back, it’s the reason a lot of free agents came aboard, it’s the reason fans were coerced into buying two years of season tickets.

The Bucs have a chance to win another Super Bowl and, ultimately, that’s how the 2022 season will be judged around here.

Still, there will be other chapters in this story. Other subplots to follow. For instance, now that Julio Jones has arrived, is it possible we will be witness to the best collection of wide receivers the NFL has ever seen on one sideline? The answer is not automatic, but that makes it worth asking.

Jones, Mike Evans and Chris Godwin are all Pro Bowl receivers. Only 13 NFL receivers have averaged better than 1,000 yards a season since 2018, and Jones, Evans and Godwin are all on the list.

There are plenty of two-man receiver combos that will last the ages, but it’s not so common to see a three-man group with the credentials in Tampa Bay’s huddle this season.

With that in mind, here are 10 of the top trios in NFL history. We’ve left off some Hall of Fame duos (Jerry Rice and Tim Brown in Oakland, Fred Biletnikoff and Cliff Branch in Oakland, Lynn Swann and John Stallworth in Pittsburgh) because they lacked a third receiver or were not together in their primes.

Art Monk/Gary Clark/Ricky Sanders

Art Monk was second in the NFL in all-time receptions when he retired.
Art Monk was second in the NFL in all-time receptions when he retired. [ MARK WILSON | AP ]

Washington 1985-92

Plusses: Monk was second in the NFL in all-time receptions when he retired, Clark was a four-time Pro Bowl receiver and Sanders had two 1,000-yard seasons.

Minuses: You might argue they were more consistent than dynamic, but that’s a stretch.

Randy Moss/Cris Carter/Jake Reed

Minnesota 1998-2001

Plusses: Could make the argument that both Moss and Carter are among the top 10 receivers of all-time. Reed had four consecutive 1,000-yard seasons before Moss arrived in Minnesota.

Minuses: Reed was only part of this combo for two seasons before going to New Orleans, and he was injured for part of 1998.

Isaac Bruce/Torry Holt/Az-Zahir Hakim/Ricky Proehl

St. Louis 1999-2007

Plusses: Bruce and Holt is the most prolific two-receiver combo in league history. Bruce is in the Hall of Fame and Holt should be. Between them, they combined for 2,368 yards a season for nine years.

Minuses: Between Bruce, Holt and running back Marshall Faulk, there were not enough balls to go around for a third receiver.

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Larry Fitzgerald/Anquan Boldin/Bryant Johnson/Steve Breaston

Larry Fitzgerald is an all-time great.
Larry Fitzgerald is an all-time great. [ LINDSEY WASSON | Associated Press (2019) ]

Arizona 2004-09

Plusses: Fitzgerald is an all-time great. Boldin was ninth in league history in receptions when he retired and may one day get a call from Canton. They were also together in their primes, playing side by side for six years in their 20s.

Minuses: Johnson was a bit of a journeyman and never topped 740 yards in a season. Breaston gave Arizona three 1,000-yard receivers in 2008, but his career was done before he was 30.

Marvin Harrison/Reggie Wayne/Brandon Stokley

Indianapolis 2003-06

Plusses: Harrison is a Hall of Famer and Wayne has been a finalist in two of the last three classes. From 2004-06, they were nearly unstoppable. With Stokley in 2004, all three topped 1,000 yards.

Minuses: There are none when it comes to Harrison and Wayne. Stokley was a nice complementary receiver but was never really dynamic other than ‘04.

Jerry Rice/Terrell Owens/J.J. Stokes

San Francisco 1996-2000

Plusses: Rice and Owens are both Hall of Famers, and Stokes was a top-10 draft pick in 1995.

Minuses: Rice and Owens never quite meshed as a combo. They played together for five seasons, but they topped 1,000 yards in the same season only once. Stokes, ultimately, was a disappointment.

Randy Moss/Wes Welker/Donte Stallworth/Jabar Gaffney

Then-New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady congratulates Randy Moss after a 2007 touchdown reception.
Then-New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady congratulates Randy Moss after a 2007 touchdown reception. [ WINSLOW TOWNSON | Associated Press (2007) ]

New England 2007-09

Plusses: For three consecutive seasons, Moss and Welker topped 1,000 yards apiece.

Minuses: Stallworth was decent in 2007, but there was never really a strong third receiver. Julian Edelman was a rookie in 2009 but not yet a force.

Charlie Joiner/John Jefferson/Kellen Winslow

San Diego 1978-80

Plusses: Joiner and Winslow are Hall of Famers, and Jefferson led the league in TD receptions twice. They were the first trio in NFL history to all top 1,000 yards in a season.

Minuses: Winslow was a tight end, and this is supposed to be a list of receivers.

Raymond Berry/Lenny Moore/Jim Mutscheller

Raymond Berry, snagging a pass from quarterback John Unitas against the Detroit Lions in 1962, is  Hall of Famer.
Raymond Berry, snagging a pass from quarterback John Unitas against the Detroit Lions in 1962, is Hall of Famer. [ AP ]

Baltimore 1957-61

Plusses: The Colts led the NFL in passing yards three times in a five-year span. Berry and Moore are both Hall of Famers.

Minuses: Moore also played in the backfield, and Mutscheller was more of a role player than a star.

Charley Taylor/Bobby Mitchell/Jerry Smith

Washington 1964-67

Plusses: Mitchell led the league in TD receptions in 1964, Taylor led the league in total receptions in 1966-67. Both are Hall of Famers.

Minuses: Taylor was also used in the backfield, and Smith was a tight end.

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