How do you improve on the No. 2-ranked offense in the NFL from a season ago?
If you’re Tennessee Titans General Manager Jon Robinson, you add seven-time Pro Bowl receiver Julio Jones into the mix with 2,000-yard runner Derrick Henry, back-to-back 1,000-yard receiver A.J. Brown, and quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who tied for the sixth-most touchdown passes in 2020.
Robinson agreed to trade a 2022 second-round pick and a 2023 fourth-round pick to the Atlanta Falcons for Jones and a 2023 sixth-round pick. The deal hasn’t been made official yet as Tennessee still has to free up the cap room to take on Jones’ salary.
“This morning when I got the news, it was kind of crazy,” Brown said. “My phone started blowing up and I think this is really huge for Tennessee, not just for me. This is huge for the city, our team, and we’re glad to have him.”
Added Tannehill: “How could you not be excited to play with a guy the caliber and talent that Julio is and has been for his whole career?”
Jones was Pro Football Focus’ top rated wide receiver from 2015-2018, and he ranked in the top three in both 2018 and 2019. He played in only nine games last year because of injuries but still totaled 51 receptions for 771 yards and three touchdowns.
In five fewer games, Jones had only 14 fewer receptions, 213 fewer yards and two fewer touchdowns than Corey Davis, Tennessee’s No. 2 receiver last year. Over his 10-year NFL career, Jones has seven 1,000-yard seasons — leading the league in receiving yards twice — and three years of 100 or more receptions.
The Titans also have tremendous flexibility with their receiver groups as Jones, Brown and free agent addition Josh Reynolds have all played both in the slot and on the outside, allowing Tennessee to move all three around as needed.
"[Julio is] big, fast, tough," Robinson said. "He's great with the ball in his hands. He's a willing blocker. I think a lot of the things that we ask of our receivers, which all the locals know, is get open, catch and block. He certainly checks those boxes and has done it as a high level for a lot of years in the National Football League.”
The addition of Jones instantly gives the Titans one of the top offenses in the AFC. Since 2019, Tennessee leads the NFL in touchdowns (110), rushing touchdowns (47), red zone touchdown percentage (75.2) and plays of 50 yards or more (23).
Jones’ presence should free up things a little more on the opposite side for Brown, who excels in single coverage. Quarterbacks have a 131.5 passer rating when targeting Brown in single coverage since he entered the league — fifth-best during the span.
“I’m excited, I’m fired up,” Tannehill said. “It’s been up-and-down. Didn’t know whether it was going to happen or not. I was just kind of along for the ride like everybody else. My agent called me today and said it was going to happen, so I’m excited to bring Julio on board and to have him across from A.J. on the other side. They’re a really dynamic duo. I’m looking forward to what he brings to the table.”
After an 11-5 season and AFC South title last year, the Titans were already considered the favorites to win the division again, and possibly contend for an AFC Championship. Adding Jones likely instantly boosts the odds of both.
In landing Jones, the Titans’ odds of winning the AFC increased from 22/1 to 12/1 and their odds of winning the Super Bowl increased from 40/1 to 25/1 (2.4 percent to 3.8 percent), according to BetMGM.
“In my discussion with Julio [about] his number-one goal, it wasn’t about targets,” Robinson said. “His goal is to win, and that’s the mindset we’re looking for…I think that’s the mindset that he has, and that’s the mindset that we have as a football team.”
Follow Michael Gallagher on Twitter @MGsports_