George Walker IV-USA TODAY Sports

George Walker IV-USA TODAY Sports

Why PFF believes 49ers signing Julio Jones makes sense

May 5, 2022 at 9:08 AM--

With the free-agency frenzy long gone and the NFL Draft behind us, NFL teams will move toward tweaking their rosters in preparation for the 2022 season. It's worth noting that there are still some well-known free agents awaiting offers—names like Jadeveon Clowney and Odell Beckham Jr.

Veteran center J.C. Tretter might make sense for the San Francisco 49ers. The team is uncertain about the future of Alex Mack. General manager John Lynch is sounding less confident about the possibility of his starting center returning for his 14th NFL season.

However, it's not Tretter that Pro Football Focus analyst Ben Linsey believes would be a good signing by the 49ers. Instead, in pairing 10 available free agents with NFL teams, he feels San Francisco might benefit from the addition of veteran wide receiver Julio Jones.

"The Deebo Samuel trade request creates a clear need for additional receiving talent in San Francisco," wrote Linsey. "The team drafted SMU wide receiver Danny Gray in the back end of the third round in addition to signing Ray-Ray McCloud in free agency, but it's hard to say that's enough."

It's worth noting that Samuel, who had unfollowed the 49ers on Instagram while scrubbing all 49ers-related content from his profile, has recently refollowed the team. That hints that the relationship between the 49ers and Samuel might not be headed for a divorce.

Jones might offer some insurance, though, at a reasonable price. He played two seasons under Kyle Shanahan when the 49ers head coach was the offensive coordinator in Atlanta.

"At 33 years old with consistent appearances on the injury report, Jones is no longer in the 'best receiver in the league' conversation like he was for most of his NFL career," Linsey continued. "But that doesn't mean he can't still be a productive contributor to an offense. Last season, his 1.76 receiving yards per route run with the Titans ranked 30th out of 114 wide receivers with 200 routes run.

"The 49ers didn't reunite Julio with Kyle Shanahan last offseason when he was available, but the price might be more attainable for San Francisco this time around."

The Falcons shipped Jones to the Tennessee Titans last year. The 49ers were not serious contenders to trade for the veteran wide receiver, but Shanahan later admitted he at least considered the possibility. However, San Francisco lacked a lot of draft capital after trading up to select quarterback Trey Lance.

"I mean, the dude is one-of-a-kind," Shanahan said of Jones last year prior to the receiver being traded. "He makes coaching a lot—a lot—easier. That's why everyone feels the same about Julio. That's why I don't worry about saying that. That's like common knowledge. Everyone knows Julio is on a different level. That's why he's a special guy."

Jones, 33, appeared in just 10 games with the Titans last season, spending some time on injured reserve due to a hamstring injury. He finished the regular season with 31 receptions for 434 yards and a touchdown—all career-lows.

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