Jonesin’ For Julio?
Analytics Report: Jones Better Option Than Watkins
Last year, the Eagles weren’t shy about adding former NFL standouts who were in the twilights of their career – Ndamukong Suh and Linval Joseph, for example.
This offseason, the Eagles have prioritized upside along with youth in free agency.
The signings of Greedy Williams and Rashad Penny are more in line with last year’s ideology, but the Eagles could make another signing – at wide receiver – that would provide depth and experience to the position.
Julio Jones, once one of the most dominant receivers in the game and rightfully recognized to the NFL 2010’s All-Decade Team, should be available in May or June, as he didn’t sign until July 27 prior to the 2022 NFL season.
The two-time All Pro and seven-time Pro Bowler signed with an elite quarterback last year when he joined Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, seeking an opportunity to add a championship to his Hall of Fame resume.
Jones, the sixth overall pick in 2011, will be 34 during the 2023 season. He posted career lows last year in targets (43), receptions (24), yards (299), and yards per reception (12.5) in 2022 with the Buccaneers.
He signed with the Bucs for $6 million and likely would cost less in 2023.
Jones should be interested in the Eagles for similar reasons; they have an elite quarterback in Jalen Hurts and should once again compete for a Super Bowl title.
The Eagles should be interested in Jones because of depth concerns at the position.
Along with potentially helping Devonta Smith and A.J. Brown – Jones’ teammate in 2021 – improve their techniques, Jones would be an improvement over Quez Watkins as the No. 3 receiver.
After losing Zach Pascal in free agency, the Eagles’ fourth receiver is Britain Covey, a return specialist last year as an undrafted rookie who didn’t catch any passes.
Here’s a breakdown of how Jones, at 33, compared to the 24-year-old Watkins in2022:
Jones outperformed Watkins in all above metrics. He was targeted more per game, caught more passes per game, gained more yards per reception and per game, and scored more touchdowns per game.
Despite having the worst season of his career, Jones clearly showed he was still more productive than Watkins.
Watkins is valuable to the Eagles because he was their primary slot receiver, with 75.6% of his snaps in 2022) from the slot. Jones is more of an outside receiver, but can still play some slot snaps (25.1% in 2022).
With Jones, the Eagles could put Smith (25.1%) or Brown (25.7%) in the slot and be creative with their play designs.
Here’s a look at how Smith and Brown fared when lined up in the slot:
Watkins is set to cost the Eagles under just $3 million for the 2023 season. If the Eagles can sign Jones for close to this figure, the addition would make a lot of sense.
The Eagles could then cut or trade Watkins, or keep him on for depth.
If the Eagles keep Watkins, they could continue to use him to take the top off the defense in certain situations. This usage would also allow the Eagles to rotate their receiving corps and keep them stay fresh.
If the conditions are right, this signing would help bolster the Eagles’ wide receiver room – and give both Jones and the Eagles a chance to compete for a championship.
– Sam Finkel is a staff writer for InsideTheBirds.com who focuses on analytics.