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Julio Jones

Aging wideout joins aged quarterback

Julio Jones signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers yesterday, and that's a move with the potential to be significant from a fantasy perspective, affecting the fortunes of a lot of different players. But there's also the potential for it to be much ado about nothing.

From 2014 to 2018, Jones had one of the greatest five-year runs by a wide receiver in the history of the league. He went over 1,400 receiving yards in each of those years, finishing 3rd, 1st, 2nd, 2nd and 1st in the NFL in that category. Only Jerry Rice, who once led the league in receiving yards five times in seven years, comes to mind as having had a stretch of that sort. It's possible we never really appreciated how great Jones' prime was.

But Jones is 33 now, and he hasn't aged as well as Rice did. He's missed seven games two years in a row, and last year he was limited even in a lot of the games he played in (he played more than half the snaps in just five games for Tennessee, which released him in March). The guess is that Tampa Bay will also limit his snaps to increase the odds of keeping him healthy, perhaps using him as a No. 3 in its offense. That's more likely than lining him up across from Mike Evans each week as a featured guy, as he was in Atlanta.

Evans shouldn't be much affected by this. Jones has never been a big scorer, catching more than 6 TDs only twice in the last nine years; double-digits just once in his career, way back in 2012. But the potential is there for it to hurt both Chris Godwin and Russell Gage. With Godwin, who tore his ACL in December, this could be a sign the team wants (or needs) to bring him back slowly, which will be easier with a healthy Jones on the roster. With Gage, who looked like the clear No. 2 until Godwin was healthy, that's now less certain. Having to vie with Jones for looks is different than Cyril Grayson, Tyler Johnson and Scotty Miller (and the early-year sleeper potential of those players is pretty much nil now).

If I'm right about the team limiting Jones in an effort to keep him healthy, Gage should still be the No. 2 (until Godwin returns), but there's less upside now. And once Godwin is healthy, it's suddenly one of the league's best foursomes (with everyone available), which will cut into the targets for a couple of them. Evans doesn't move for me, but both Godwin and Gage take a hit. (Nice boost for Tom Brady, at least.)

As for Jones himself, can he put up fantasy-relevant numbers? Recent history for 33-year-old wideouts isn't great.

Table below shows all wide receivers 33 or older who have had a top-40 season (PPR) in the last 20 years. The last guys to do it were Julian Edelman and Larry Fitzgerald in 2019; Fitzgerald has four of the seven such seasons since 2015. (A.J. Green just missed a year ago, finishing 41st.) It's increasingly rare. Of the 60 such seasons in the last 20 years, fewer than a third of them (17) are from the last decade.

TOP-40 SEASONS BY WIDEOUTS 33 OR OLDER, 2002-PRESENT
YearPlayerAgeGRecYdsTDPPRRk
2019Julian Edelman, N.E.331610011176258.87
2019Larry Fitzgerald, Ariz.3616758044179.435
2018Larry Fitzgerald, Ariz.3516697346186.026
2018Jordy Nelson, Oak.3315637393156.738
2017Larry Fitzgerald, Ariz.341610911566263.75
2016Larry Fitzgerald, Ariz.331610710236245.811
2016Steve Smith Sr., Balt.3714707995183.937
2015Anquan Boldin, S.F.3514697894171.940
2014Steve Smith Sr., Balt.35167910656221.518
2014Anquan Boldin, S.F.34168310625219.619
2014Roddy White, Atl.3314809217214.121
2014Andre Johnson, Hou.3315859363196.628
2014Malcom Floyd, S.D.3316528566173.640
2013Anquan Boldin, S.F.33168511797246.015
2013Steve Smith Sr., Car.3415647454162.537
2012Reggie Wayne, Ind.341610613555271.08
2012Steve Smith Sr., Car.33167311744217.120
2011Reggie Wayne, Ind.3316759604195.025
2011Plaxico Burress, NYJ3416456128154.240
2010Terrell Owens, Cin.3714729839224.317
2010Derrick Mason, Balt.3616618027183.228
2010Hines Ward, Pitt.3416597555164.338
2009Hines Ward, Pitt.33169511676247.712
2009Derrick Mason, Balt.35167310287218.017
2009Donald Driver, G.B.34167010616213.419
2009Terrell Owens, Buff.3616558296179.327
2008Terrell Owens, Dall.351669105210237.511
2008Derrick Mason, Balt.34168010375216.020
2008Donald Driver, G.B.33167410125205.622
2008Muhsin Muhammad, Car.3516659235187.328
2008Isaac Bruce, S.F.3616618357186.231
2008Marvin Harrison, Ind.3615606365153.636
2007Terrell Owens, Dall.341581135515307.03
2007Bobby Engram, Sea.34169411476244.712
2007Derrick Mason, Balt.331610310875241.714
2007Joey Galloway, T.B.36155710146194.526
2006Marvin Harrison, Ind.341695136612303.61
2006Terrell Owens, Dall.331685118013283.02
2006Joey Galloway, T.B.35166210577210.621
2006Isaac Bruce, St.L.34167410983203.823
2006Keyshawn Johnson, Car.3416708155181.928
2006Muhsin Muhammad, Chi.3316608635176.330
2006Eddie Kennison, K.C.3316538605170.632
2005Joey Galloway, T.B.341683128710272.17
2005Marvin Harrison, Ind.331582114612268.69
2005Rod Smith, Den.35168511056232.213
2005Keenan McCardell, S.D.3516709179216.317
2005Jimmy Smith, Jac.36167010236208.321
2005Keyshawn Johnson, Dall.3316718396193.226
2004Rod Smith, Den.34167911447238.715
2004Jimmy Smith, Jac.35167411726227.219
2004Johnnie Morton, K.C.3313557953156.839
2003Keenan McCardell, T.B.33168411749255.48
2003Rod Smith, Den.3315748454195.920
2003Jerry Rice, Oak.4116638692161.930
2003Jimmy Smith, Jac.3412548054158.533
2002Jerry Rice, Oak.40169212117257.110
2002Jimmy Smith, Jac.33168010277226.917
2002Tim Brown, Oak.3616819302187.928
2002Ed McCaffrey, Den.3416699032173.537

Jones has been one of the greats, but I don't think he'll put up difference-making numbers this year. Even if he can stay healthy, the Bucs will probably limit his chances, in order to give him a better chance of staying that way.

--Andy Richardson

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