The Indianapolis Colts have been linked to Julio Jones throughout the offseason, ever since the organization traded for Matt Ryan in March. A Ryan-Jones reunion has been available for months, yet the Colts haven’t budged.
General manager Chris Ballard shut down any opportunity of Jones going to the Colts, even though Indianapolis could use a veteran wide receiver.
“I know there’s reports out there, but those reports are wrong,” Ballard said on the Colts’ interest in Jones (per The Indianapolis Star). Ballard did address that the Colts have continued to talk to T.Y. Hilton about a possible return — if they choose to add a veteran to the wide receiver room.
“I just don’t see quite the desperation,” Ballard said on the Colts’ wide receiver group.
The Colts do have Michael Pittman and second-round draft pick Alec Pierce on the outside with Parris Campbell in the slot. There isn’t much depth in Indianapolis, as Mike Strachan, Dezmon Patmon, and Ashton Dulin are listed as second teamers on the depth chart.
Outside of Pittman (88 catches for 1,082 yards and six touchdowns), the Colts didn’t have a single wide receiver that had 40 catches or over 400 yards last season. The team’s second leading wide receiver, Zach Pascal (38 catches for 384 yards and three touchdowns) signed with the Philadelphia Eagles in free agency. Campbell, Dulin, Patmon and Strachan combined for 27 catches, 382 yards and four touchdowns last year.
There’s certainly a need for a veteran wideout if the Colts pursue one. Hilton told the Colts he intends to play in 2022 after a neck injury limited him to just 10 games last season. He caught 23 of 37 targets for 331 yards and three touchdowns in 2021 while averaging 14.4 yards per catch, his highest average since 2018.
During his decade with the Colts, the Florida native has caught 631 passes for 9,691 yards and 53 touchdowns while averaging 15.4 yards per catch. A Pro Bowler each year from 2014 through 2017, Hilton led the league with 1,448 receiving yards in 2016. During that four-year span, Hilton averaged 75 receptions for 1,221 yards and six touchdowns.
Jones remains on the free agent market after having a career-low 31 catches for 434 yards and a touchdown (14.0 yards per catch) last season. It was one hampered by injuries, which has been part of the reason Jones hasn’t been productive in each of the last two years.
Jones did sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Tuesday, so the Colts won’t have an opportunity to pursue him in case they decide to go the veteran route.