When general manager Ted Thompson welcomed home the likes of Mark Tauscher, Ahman Green and Matt Flynn, it was for states of emergency.
On Sunday, Thompson welcomed home James Jones.
For Jones and the Green Bay Packers, this reunion was the perfect storm of need meeting opportunity. The Packers badly needed a veteran wide receiver after losing Jordy Nelson to a season-ending knee injury. Jones needed a job after being released by the Giants on Saturday.
“I'm only one year removed,” Jones told reporters upon landing at Green Bay’s Austin Straubel Airport on Sunday to meet with the team. “It seems like 10 years, but time will wait. Get with Aaron (Rodgers). I'm sure they probably have some new stuff. We'll see what happens, but let's make it happen first."
Jones was a third-round pick by the Packers in 2007 and spent seven seasons in Green Bay. In 2012, he led the NFL with 14 touchdown receptions. In 2013, he set a career high with 817 receiving yards. In free agency the following offseason, Jones wanted to stay but the Packers showed little interest. So, Jones signed a three-year, $10 million contract with the Raiders. With rookie quarterback Derek Carr leading the offense, Jones posted a career-high 73 receptions. However. his 9.1-yard average per reception ranked 80th among the 81 wide receivers who caught at least 33 passes and he was near the bottom of the league with 2.9 yards after the catch per catch. Oakland released him and Jones joined the Giants but couldn't crack their deep receiving corps.
Unlike a couple of years ago, this time Jones found the Packers were much more eager for his services.
Green Bay's receiver corps is as green as the not-so-Frozen Tundra. Behind Pro Bowler Randall Cobb are Davante Adams (second season; 22 years old), Ty Montgomery (rookie; 22), Jeff Janis (second year, 24) and Myles White (third year, 25). Adams caught 38 passes for 446 yards and three touchdowns during a solid rookie season. The other three have combined career totals of 11 receptions, 82 yards and zero touchdowns.
Jones is on the other end of spectrum. He is 31 years old and boasts career totals of 383 receptions for 4,971 yards and 43 touchdowns. While his average per reception last season hints to diminishing athletic ability for a receiver who never was blessed with blazing speed, other statistics tell a different story. According to Pro Football Focus, he posted a solid catch rate of 67.6 percent. His career in Green Bay was marred by some maddening drops but he only had four drops last season, according to PFF.
With that production and his history with Rodgers, Thompson broke from his usual approach of replacing veterans with youngsters. For instance, when the Packers lost leading rusher Ryan Grant in the first game of 2010, he signed Dimitri Nance off the Falcons' practice squad. When Bryan Bulaga sustained a hip injury at midseason in 2012, undrafted rookie Don Barclay eventually took over at right tackle. In 2013, when Bulaga was moved to left tackle but tore his ACL on Family Night, Thompson stuck with fourth-round rookie David Bakhtiari. Later that season, when Cobb sustained a broken leg at Baltimore, Thompson promoted White, an undrafted rookie, to the active roster.
This time, Thompson went a different route. The Packers were obviously prime Super Bowl contenders with Nelson. That took a big hit when Nelson went down with a torn ACL at Pittsburgh in the second preseason game. Maybe Adams emerges as a star. Maybe Montgomery will be a rookie sensation. Maybe Janis can put it all together. Maybe White can replicate his preseason production against front-line defenders in the regular season. That, however, is a lot of maybes. If nothing else, Jones buys some time for those young players to emerge and earn Rodgers' trust. Or perhaps Jones can play like he did in 2012 to help replace some of Nelson's 13 touchdowns from last season.
Either way, Jones is a plug-and-play type of player. He won’t be asked to be Nelson. But his presence on the outside in the Packers’ preferred three-receiver packages will allow Cobb to do what he does best — make plays from the slot.
“I'm excited, man, it feels good to get back and be back home, so we'll see what happens,” Jones said.
Receiver Jared Abbrederis is the headliner on the Packers' practice squad. No transactions were announced by the team but other media outlets reported Abbrederis, running back John Crockett, offensive linemen Matt Rotheram and Jeremy Vujnovich, tight end Justin Perillo, linebackers Carl Bradford and James Vaughters, and defensive tackle Christian Ringo. That takes care of eight of the 10 spots. To sign Jones, the Packers will have to release a player and, presumably, they'd like to sign him to the practice squad if he clears waivers. That would leave one more spot and he wouldn't necessarily come from Green Bay's cuts. It won't be tight end Mitchell Henry or defensive tackle Khyri Thornton. They signed to the 53-man rosters of the Broncos and Patriots, respectively.
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.