Zay Jones' release places intriguing new veteran to free agent market

If the Chiefs want to further bolster their receiving corps with another veteran, Zay Jones is now among those WRs available.
Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Zay Jones (7) is met by Tennessee Titans cornerback Sean
Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Zay Jones (7) is met by Tennessee Titans cornerback Sean / Denny Simmons / The Tennessean / USA

On Tuesday, the Jacksonville Jaguars decided to help sort out their finances and depth chart with a couple of moves to clear some cap space as well as the overall roster picture. A big part of both was centered on the release of veteran wide receiver Zay Jones.

The Jags are in the middle of a complete reinvention of their wide receiver room for quarterback Trevor Lawrence, which includes the loss of Calvin Ridley along with Jones while importing important new players in both the draft and free agency.

For our purposes, the Kansas City Chiefs and other teams interested in perhaps adding a final veteran performer to the mix at receiver now have a new option on the open market with the release of Jones.

The Jags signed Jones in '22 to help bolster the unit, and he responded with a career season with 82 catches for 823 yards, all career highs, and 5 touchdowns. However, last season was impeded by injury and further roster moves have put Jones, now 29 years old, on the outside looking in.

Should the Chiefs think of such a signing or roll the dice further with Kadarius Toney, Skyy Moore, and the like? Is there even a need? And would Zay Jones even offer what they want? To answer part of these questions, we asked our friend Carlos Sanchez, who covers the team for Black & Teal, about Jones's release and what to expect going forward.

First, can you update us on what you know about his health at this point? How is Jones coming along?

A PCL injury limited Zay Jones to eight games and 34 receptions for 321 yards in 2023. That was his lowest output since 2020, when he tallied 14 receptions. Keenan Allen suffered a similar injury early in his career and was able to fully come back. More recently, Lamar Jackson suffered a PCL injury in 2022 and had no lingering issues last year.

If Jones is 100 percent for 2024, and there's no reason to think he won't, he should be as productive as he was before the injury.

Was his release related to health concerns?

Jones' health didn't play a role in his release. He was simply a victim of the numbers game. The Jags signed Gabe Davis in free agency and later drafted Brian Thomas Jr. 23rd overall in the draft. Add Christian Kirk to the mix, and Jones would've been WR4 on the depth chart. Jones was set to earn a base salary of $7 million. Jacksonville wasn't going to pay him that amount for a reserve role. Instead, they released him and freed up $4.49 million in space.

Were you surprised to see his time with the Jags come to an end?

Not really. The writing was on the wall for Zay Jones. He was a key contributor in the Jaguars' 2022 playoff run but the front office thought the wide receiver corps could use upgrades. Hence, the acquisitions of Brian Thomas Jr. and Gabe Davis.

If healthy, what does Jones have to offer a team in 2024?

Zay Jones can be a good WR2. That's the role he had in Jacksonville in 2022. That year, he set new career bests for yards and receptions in a season. I wasn't honestly high on him when he was signed, as he had been underwhelming in his stops with the Las Vegas Raiders and the Buffalo Bills. Then again, some players need time to put it all together, and I think Jones was able to finally hit his stride in Jacksonville. If healthy, he can become a steady contributor.