Julio Jones returns to the NFC South. He'll still be in red and black, and he'll still be catching passes from a long-time, veteran quarterback. None of this will happen in Atlanta, though. It'll happen in Tampa Bay. Trade out a Falcons logo for a Buccaneers logo. Trade out Matt Ryan for Tom Brady. And in Jones' 12th year in the league, he's heading even further south.
According to reports from ESPN's Adam Schefter, Jones is signing a one-year deal with Tampa Bay.
The Falcons parted ways with Jones last offseason, trading him to the Tennessee Titans for a second round pick. Jones had a $23 million cap hit at the time that the Falcons didn't have room for if they wanted to 1) sign their 2021 draft class or 2) keep Grady Jarrett.
Last season Jones played in 10 games (one more than he did in his final season with the Falcons in 2020). In those 10 games he made 31 receptions for 434 yards and one touchdowns. It was his lowest year - from a statistical standpoint - since 2013, when he was sidelined for all but five games.
Jones was released by Tennessee at the start of the 2022 league year. With a post-June 1 designation, the moved reportedly saved the Titans around $12 million in salary cap space.
Per Schefter's reporting, Tampa Bay and Green Bay were the two front runners of teams to acquire Jones, who saw himself on the free agency market for the first time.
The Falcons still carry a dead cap hit for Jones totaling $15.5 million in 2022, according to Spotrac.
Jones' seven Pro Bowls came as a Falcons. He'll go down as one of the best players of the Falcons franchise, having accumulated over 12,000 receiving yards during his time in Atlanta.
The Falcons will make the trip to face the Bucs in the fifth week of the season. Then, Jones will return to Atlanta in a different red uniform when Tampa Bay travels to Atlanta for the final week of the 2022 regular season.