If you want to know which way the winds are blowing in the NFL, more often than not, you can look to the desert to see what the Vegas oddsmakers have to say. As recently as last week, the Green Bay Packers were the betting favorite to land free-agent wide receiver Julio Jones, according to bookies.com. However, it was only by a slim margin. If general manager Brian Gutekunst can get the numbers to work out, great. Still, it feels like a long shot that Jones ends up with the Packers in 2022.
The biggest question in Green Bay since the Davante Adams trade has easily been what the Packers would do about the wide receiver position. Since trading away Adams in March, Green Bay has added promising rookies Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs in the draft and took a flyer on veteran Sammy Watkins, hoping that he can put it all together in a favorable situation with the Packers. Outside of that, the team has seemed content to add that trio to returning contributors Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb, in addition to second-year player Amari Rodgers, who the team is banking on having a breakout sophomore campaign.
According to OverTheCap.com, Green Bay still has just shy of $17 million in cap space. But that number comes with caveats, notably that Christian Watson has yet to sign his rookie deal. Jones won’t be signing anywhere for free, even though he’s made over $140 million throughout his career. It’s easy to see why the Packers could be desirable for Jones. They have a competitive team, an MVP quarterback, and catches readily available. But Gutekunst and the front office still have to balance the checkbook. After signing Watson, a full practice squad, and any other lingering veterans out there, bringing in a player with Jones’ track record would almost certainly necessitate Gutekunst pushing the rest of Green Bay’s chips to the center of the table.
So why would Green Bay be listed first? For starters, the odds are merely projected, and no reputable Las Vegas source is offering them. Second, for the reasons listed above, it’s easy to track through the logic of why Jones ending up with the Packers makes sense. Lastly, Green Bay is always one of the most publicly wagered-on teams across the NFL, meaning that the amount of people betting on the Packers always tends to skew the actual odds of said event.
For purely football reasons, it doesn’t seem likely that Green Bay will be bringing a veteran-for-hire player like Jones into the mix. Gutekunst hasn’t kept more than six wide receivers on the initial 53-man roster since 2018. That year he kept eight following a draft in which the Packers selected three wideouts in Marquez Valdes-Scantling, J’Mon Moore, and Equanimeous St. Brown. Gutekunst once again selected three wide receivers this year in Watson, Doubs, and seventh-rounder Samori Toure. It seems like Green Bay is set with their six at the position — Lazard, Cobb, Watkins, Rodgers, Watson, and Doubs — with the chance that the team keeps Toure on the 53 as opposed to on the practice squad.
Jones has absolutely torched the Packers many times in his career. Most notably, he had 259 yards on 11 receptions in 2014, and nine catches for 180 yards and two touchdowns when the Atlanta Falcons destroyed the Packers in the 2016 NFC Championship game. Those performance are burned into the memories of many Green Bay fans, but it’s still tough to see Jones ending up rocking the green and gold this fall. The Packers might be the betting favorite as it stands, but it certainly seems like one of the longer shots might end up paying off on this one.